Many feel Dhoni is still the best man to lead

Hard times… India skipper M. S. Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher have been sailing in rough weather the past few months without hope.-AP

The morale of the Indian team is at its lowest with seven Test defeats in a row overseas. M. S. Dhoni has been singled out for criticism following India's abysmal performance. Is Dhoni really to blame? How good is he as India captain? Vijay Lokapally finds out.

When Kapil Dev said that Mahendra Singh Dhoni had made a “mockery of Test cricket” by bowling in a Test match in England, and termed it “unacceptable”, the former India great was only stressing on one point: ‘Do not mess around with the game.'

It's not that Dhoni didn't know what his job was; he had simply run out of resources.

The India skipper has been confronted with similar problems on the Australian tour. Seven successive Test defeats overseas show him in poor light.

Former India skipper and leg-spinner Anil Kumble has said that Dhoni alone can't be blamed for India's debacle. However, Dhoni has drawn a lot of flak following India's dismal performance down under.

How good is Dhoni as captain?

Bishan Singh Bedi: Honestly, Dhoni has been very lucky. All have seen it and I don't have to elaborate. I would not like to say much beyond this at this time. He is going through a difficult period and it would not be correct to slam him when he is down and out. I don't want to pull him down really. You may draw comparisons as you wish to, but a captain can't be judged by statistics. Dhoni has backed his players and handled pressures well in the past. He is under immense pressure now and needs to be supported.

Chetan Chauhan: Dhoni has not come good. I believe a captain should always lead by example and he has not been able to do that. His defensive tactics have baffled me. In Tests, you have to attack; you have to take wickets and try to contain the opposition. Tactically, he has failed with regard to bowling changes and field placements. He has not been talking to the bowlers. He has to constantly talk to them as he used to in the past. Test cricket is not a platform for experiments. He has been experimenting instead of sticking to the basics of the game. He should also be firm when dealing with the players. I don't think he has been firm on the Australian tour. The heart and soul is not there, and he is just not motivating the team. His wicket-keeping too has been below the mark.

Kapil Dev: Dhoni must take the blame. I know he has, but he has to change the trend. I accept he is Mr. Cool but he needs to assert and speak up. True, he took the blame but that does not absolve him. He must take charge if he is the captain. That is what he did at the World Cup. He took charge. But he is still the best man to lead the team. No doubt about that. And please do not make comparisons. A captain is only as good as his team.

Dilip Vengsarkar: I have always found Dhoni brilliant. We failed as a team, so why blame Dhoni alone? Any captain is only as good as the team. India performed below potential and that's why all this talk of blaming Dhoni. We have limitations in every department even though we appear very strong on paper. I think he would still deliver.

He has an excellent and proven record. A fantastic record! How many captains would stand up and take the blame? He did it. He has always led from the front and has been a true ambassador of the game.

Tell me, do you have a replacement (for Dhoni)? You don't have a 13th proper cricketer in this team. You have no options. So stop blaming Dhoni.

Aunshuman Gaekwad: He has generally been very good. Every captain goes through this phase and now it is Dhoni's turn. But don't blame him alone.

He knows his job well. He is so composed, whether you take wickets or don't, whether you score runs or don't. He does not slam his players. He takes the blame upon himself. What more can he do? I like the way he reads a situation — he doesn't get flustered, keeps his frustrations to himself. I have never seen him lose his composure on the field and that is a great quality. I like the way he makes his moves, the field placements and bowling changes. We all know the kind of pressure he must be under, mentally and physically. He is captain, wicket-keeper and batsman.

There is so much cricket being played these days — too much cricket. I've known captains who would react sharply to someone making a mistake. Dhoni doesn't. He is one of the best I've seen.

Manoj Prabhakar: His achievements are great. He has changed the face of Indian cricket with his unique style. It is only of late that he has floundered. Give him his space and respect. Blame the seniors too. As a captain, he is bound to be under scrutiny, but is he alone to be blamed?

I have found him alone during the Test matches in Australia. I have not seen any support, at least on the field, for Dhoni. There is no support by way of advice or performance. The bowlers have been left alone. Don't just blame Dhoni, please.

When you perform, everything is fine, even your mistakes are brushed under the carpet. When you fail, everything you do is bad and negative. In the process, Dhoni's performance too has suffered. I suspect there is something wrong. He is not getting support from the seniors. A captain needs a good team to be good all the time. When he had a good team India was No. 1. How can you suddenly say he is a bad captain? It is a team game and he needs support from the seniors.

Maninder Singh: Dhoni has this negative habit — of late — of letting the opposition go. When he should be grabbing them by the neck, he has allowed the opponents to wriggle out. He waits for things to happen. You can do that against the weaker teams, not against teams like England, South Africa and Australia.

There are specific instances I would like to mention. In the first Test (in Melbourne), he allowed Australia to recover from 214 for six to 333 in the first innings and from 27 for four to 240 in the second.

In the second Test (in Sydney), Australia came back from 37 for three (to make 659 for four declared). It may not be a problem in a one-day match but in a Test it makes a huge difference. I think he has been lucky enough in getting away with such mistakes in one-dayers. He has been very lucky with his intuitions in one-day matches. They have not worked in Tests. Being cool is his basic character but it has not worked in Tests in England and Australia.

He does not handle the bowlers well. In England, I saw Amit Mishra bowling to a left-hander with a deep third man. You have that for a fast bowler, not a leg-spinner. I have not seen such a field in my life. For Harbhajan Singh, he had a short-leg, a backward short-leg and a short mid-on. What line was Harbhajan bowling? The captain had little idea of what was going on. In Australia, I heard R. Ashwin say his job was to contain. Who gave him that idea and how did the captain allow him to contain when this bowler aims to take wickets even in T20 matches?

Kiran More: Dhoni has done wonderfully well as a captain for the last four years or so. He has won everything that you wanted him to win. And he has won with all the limitations. Today, you don't have bowlers who can take 10 wickets in a match. You are totally dependent on your batsmen. Indian batting has a lot of grey areas. The players are not performing and how can you just blame the captain? Dhoni is well established and still the best. Do you want to go back to Sachin (Tendulkar) or Rahul (Dravid)? Or do you want to appoint R. Ashwin? I will stick with Dhoni.