New Delhi: A wake-up call for MS Dhoni. His captaincy in Tests is under review, and he has been asked by the national selectors to draw up a blue-print to ensure that India successfully defends the One-Day International World Cup in 2015. This follows a very long dry spell for the Men in Blue, who have not notched up any win of significance since the series win against the West Indies last year.
Sources have told NDTV that the selectors have conveyed their disappointment to Dhoni after India lost the home Test series this month to Engand. His continuing to lead the Test side, even for the series against Australia in February, will depend heavily on how he leads the team in the ongoing ODI and T20 series against Pakistan, the sources said, admitting that comparing performance in limited over games and Tests was likening apples to oranges.
Dhoni's decisions in the first T20 against Pakistan on Christmas Day have been soundly criticised, especially the one to hand the last over to non-regular bowler and his Chennai Super Kings team-mate Ravindra Jadeja, when India were in with a chance with Pakistan needing to score 10 runs to win. Shoaib Malik scored hit the fourth ball of the last over for a six wrapping it up for Pakistan.
That the selectors have asked Dhoni to prepare strategy for the 2015 World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand indicates that at least the ODI captaincy is his till then. The selectors have asked the skipper to identify the players that he would need for the team to perform well in 2015.
Former India captain and NDTV expert Sunil Gavaskar was surprised by the decision. "I am surprised if they have asked him for a blue-print. First and foremost the selection's committee tenure is only for a year so there is no guarantee that they will be there to select the team for 2015. But it's always good for a selection committee for a frank exchange and you have to be on the same page."
Mr Gavaskar, however, believes a break might benefit Dhoni. "While it's early days as far as 2015 is concerned, may be a break will do wonders for Dhoni. I admire the fact that he keeps so cool under pressure so Dhoni has his pluses, but the results India is getting, maybe it's time. It might not happen during the season, it helps for a captain to have a break, whether it's a voluntary break or an enforced break. Then he can come with a difference perspective and he can comeback as a better captain."
When asked if it was a realistic suggestion, Gavaskar said: "There is nothing that stops him. His successor might find it difficult to cope with the pressure and demands of being the Indian captain. It's actually a very funny kind of a situation. People want to be captain but the demands and the pressure that come with it are incredible, and sometimes you just want to say to yourself that 'hang on, I just want to play my own cricket'."
When not the captain, what does one do with Dhoni? Keep him in the playing XI?
Mr Gavaskar answers in affirmative. "I would definitely like to have Dhoni as a part of playing XI because he is a match-winner in the 50 overs and the T20 format. Dhoni certainly is an integral part of the Indian team for at least the next couple years for sure, unless his form dips," he said.
The Little Master also suggested Virat Kohli's name as a worthy successor to Dhoni. "My feeling is that Virat Kohli is going to bring India the kind of captaincy, the kind of flair and the kind of charisma that Tiger Pataudi had. Once Kohli becomes the captain on a permanent basis, he is going to bring Indian cricket the dynamism and the aggressiveness and the class that Tiger Pataudi had."
"I don't want Kohli to change apart from the fact that he abuses once he reaches a landmark, I do not want him change his aggressive nature but I genuinely believe that if he becomes the captain he will bring Indian cricket a dimension that will take Indian cricket forward," he added.
Sources also say Coach Duncan Fletcher's contract will not be renewed. In fact the Board of Control for Cricket of India has already started looking for options to replace Fletcher in March next year.
And Mr Gavaskar says it might be a good idea to try an Indian coach. "Why not try an Indian coach? The Indian coach will understand the Indian psyche a lot better. And also other things that we need to be remember is Indian cricketers will respect an Indian who has achieved things. Look one of the reasons why Gary Kirsten was successful was because he had done it all in both the Test and the ODI format of the game. He was somebody one looked up to as he had done it all. His work ethic was of a person looking to improve."