Unfair to blame Dhoni for India’s debacle

Dhoni’s batting did not have the same spark in Perth and Brisbane, it is true, and India’s case may have been helped by 20 more runs. But the manner in which India has gone about defending scores in the vicinity of 300 three times in a row now does not induce the feeling that those extra runs would have made a difference.

There is only so much a captain can do to compensate for the sloppiness of his bowlers and fielders.   -  Reuters

M.S. Dhoni’s work bore an inspired quality on Sunday. His ball-striking was awesome, his nine-ball-23 making a huge difference to India’s total. After the interval, his work behind the wicket was sharp, the stumping of George Bailey and the running out of Mitchell Marsh leaving Australia in a spot of bother. Dhoni’s contributions were potentially game-changing; it is a shame they made no difference to the eventual result.

India’s defeat at the MCG, which handed Australia an unassailable 3-0 lead in the VB Series, was not Dhoni’s fault. There is only so much a captain can do to compensate for the sloppiness of his bowlers and fielders.

There were 13 fours in the first 33 overs of the Australia innings that arrived either on the fifth or the sixth balls of overs. The 33rd over was a disappointing case in point, Umesh Yadav bowling four good deliveries before sending down two poor ones, drifting down the leg-side, that Mitchell Marsh turned behind his hip for four. Any pent-up pressure was swiftly released.

“If we hadn’t given easy boundary opportunities, we’d have been able to maintain some kind of pressure that induces a false shot,” Dhoni said later. “I don’t think we were able to do that. There were a lot of mis-fields that kept on happening and that takes the pressure off the batsmen. These are big fields and when it gets past the fielder, more often than not, you have two runs on the offer. That actually reduces the pressure.”

In a clear reference to the Yadav over, he added: “For example, if you take the deep fine leg slightly wider, that’s one area where you don’t want to get hit for a boundary. And that’s where off the two next balls, back-to-back boundaries are hit. It’s a bit disappointing because the bowlers have played a lot of games, and you want to avoid that kind of a boundary. At times it feels like I can only try to bring in more pressure by making field changes. But at the end of the day, it’s about execution.”

Dhoni’s batting did not have the same spark in Perth and Brisbane, it is true, and India’s case may have been helped by 20 more runs. But the manner in which India has gone about defending scores in the vicinity of 300 three times in a row now does not induce the feeling that those extra runs would have made a difference.

On Sunday, Gurkeerat Singh and Rishi Dhawan — the two debutants — did not bowl all that badly. Those team changes can be debated and it is fair to question Dhoni for these losses or his own form. It is unfair, though, to saddle him with all the blame.