Dhoni has failed to pick up the pointers

There were hardly any ambitious expectations of Team India winning all the series abroad in 2014, but the exasperating factors were the abject surrender at times and repetition of mistakes.

Team India will have to start the New Year afresh in Test cricket as their record in 2014 was not flattering. A solitary win at Lord’s was the only silver lining in the cloud for Dhoni and his team.

The inability of the team to perform collectively was the reason for the poor results. In New Zealand, the bowlers failed to take advantage of the key moments while in England the batsmen were woefully out of form after starting off rather well. In the ongoing series against Australia, the batsmen have played a very positive brand of cricket but unfortunately the bowlers have been under the hammer.

There were hardly any ambitious expectations of Team India winning all the series abroad in 2014, but the exasperating factors were the abject surrender at times and repetition of mistakes. The inexperience in the bowling attack is understandable but failing to get rid of the tail-enders almost on a regular basis is incomprehensible.

Added to that is the captain’s obstinacy in sticking to a four- bowler attack more often than not. Dhoni has failed to pick up the obvious pointers as his ploy of playing only four bowlers has come short in running the last mile.

The Wanderers Test towards the end of 2013 comes to mind when the bowlers could not complete the job due to fatigue. On the other hand, the five bowlers trick worked at Lord’s even though Ishant Sharma was the match-winner.

The Indian skipper has played enough and led enough to realise that he needs to play an attack capable of getting 20 wickets in a Test match. But for reasons best known to him, he is averse to sacrificing a batsman to bolster the bowling attack. Of course, Ganguly favoured the four-bowler attack as well, but his bowling options were in a different league altogether. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the current youngsters but they are still on a learning curve.

That being the case, there is a need for the team to have another bowler to fall back on. Apart from the inconsistency of the bowlers, they are injury prone as well.

Time and again they have shown that they are unable to cope with the demand of bowling 50 quality overs, that is critical in dismissing the opposition twice in a Test match. With Kohli getting back to form in Adelaide (his failures had a telling impact in England), Dhoni could have played an additional bowler. The aggressive attitude displayed in Adelaide was refreshing but it was back to safe mode from The ‘Gabba. There is no harm in losing a game in chasing a victory but a win is difficult to achieve if a draw is the objective from the outset.

From Dhoni’s point of view, one can understand that his plans can be undermined if the bowlers don’t display consistency, but he always has the option to try a different tack. The enormous faith reposed in a strong batting line-up has not stemmed the frequency of defeats anyway.

It is rather unfortunate that the same tactics were employed despite them not really providing success. The time has come for Dhoni to shift gears and look at alternate methods to derive success. The issue is not about the lack of results but about doing the same things and hoping that success will come by. The handling of Ashwin has been surprising as well because he is the lead spinner in the current set up.

The fact that Nathan Lyon has succeeded only because he has been persisted with seems to have escaped the attention of the Indian skipper. Hopefully, the New Year will see Dhoni employ different methods if only to improve upon his record as a captain.