Dhoni is still the best bet

India’s debacle in the World Twenty20 Championship is hardly a disaster given the nature of the game, but what would be catastrophic is losing trust in a captain like M. S. Dhoni after one poor tournament, writes R. Narayanan.

Success can never be a constant companion in this ever-changing, competitive world. And when it deserts one, even if temporarily, he is left to face the music all alone.

This is exactly what happened to India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the ICC World Twenty20 Championship in England. Hailed as a captain who could do no wrong, Dhoni suddenly became a captain who could do nothing right.

It was all his fault. By transforming a young bunch of players into world-beaters in the inaugural Twenty20 Championship in South Africa in 2007, Dhoni instilled self-belief and discipline in the ranks. By conquering new frontiers (winning the ODI tri-series in Australia) and re-conquering some old ones (winning a Test series in New Zealand after four decades), he sent our spirits soaring high.

By forging a team of men who had the talent and the temperament to take on the best in the business, he raised our expectations. In fact, he raised our expectations so much that we believed we could beat anyone in any form of the game, and in any tournament.

The simple fact is that a bullish run is often followed by a correction, at least a short-term one. And it was merely that correction one saw happen to Dhoni and his men in England. The fact that it came in a tournament in which India was the defending champion is what probably made the share holders (Indian fans) all the more hysterical.

To the discerning, the signs were obvious even before the first ball was bowled, as Dhoni had to make his players trade tracksuits for blazers in order to show the world that they stood united amidst reports that suggested otherwise.

Things got worse with the loss of the destructive opener, Virender Sehwag — who turned out to be self-destructive by travelling to the tournament despite not being fully fit — and the reliable Rohit Sharma in the middle-order (he was forced to take Sehwag’s place).

With Dhoni himself contributing to the dismal scenario with some indifferent batting and baffling decisions — promoting Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan in the needle game against England and opting for a jaded and erratic Ishant Sharma instead of Praveen Kumar, who would have been ideal in the English conditions — the crown was surrendered even before the semifinal stage.

It calls for courage to admit one’s mistakes and own up responsibility for defeat. Dhoni did just that, proving that he is not only a true leader but also a true gentleman. Such men are rare indeed.

The fact is, Dhoni is our best choice as captain, and arguably one of the best we have ever had. The bitter truth is, there isn’t anyone else in the side who can take over the mantle from him, at least for now.

Losing in the World Twenty20 Championship is hardly a catastrophe given the nature of the game, but what would be catastrophic is losing trust in a captain like Dhoni after one poor tournament.

Considering Dhoni’s track record, there is no doubt that he will quickly bounce back with a vengeance, both as a skipper and as a batsman. And the success stories will begin again…