India vs Australia: Can Mahendra Singh Dhoni Salvage Pride Down Under, One Last Time?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads India against Australia in a five ODI and three Twenty20I series, which could well be his last as captain Down Under. After loss in the South Africa ODI and Twenty20I series, the 2011 World Cup winning skipper is under pressure to change his fortunes at a place which has always tested his abilities.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, arguably India's greatest cricket captain ever, may be facing a dilemma. Whether to take chief selector Sandeep Patil's statement that he would stay skipper till 2016 World Twenty20 as an assurance, or as a warning to treat it as the last big stage for glorious exit? (Australia Ready for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 'Aggressive' India, Says Darren Lehmann)
Nevertheless, at 34, Dhoni is most probably leading Team India for one last time on Australian soil. A place where his vulnerability to lead India in the Test-format came to the fore after a 0-4 series loss in 2012. Dhoni even played his last Test match in Australia in 2014, and since then he has kept himself 'limited' to the limited overs format. (Chance for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Team India to Turn Around Woeful One-Day International Record in Australia)
In this format too, Dhoni hasn't shone bright when it comes to the challenges Down Under. His greatest hour on Australian soil came in 2008, when India won a tri-series defeating Australia in Sydney and Brisbane. (India in Australia: Top 10 Memorable One-Day International Contests)
Dhoni, Learning the Hard Way
Captain Dhoni was still only a year-old in his job and he learnt that the hard way when the Australians thrashed India 2-4 in an away series in 2009. India won the brief 2010 series at home, but then came the 2012 away series, which Dhoni's side lost 1-3. (Mahendra Singh Dhoni Mum on Retirement Plans)
Dhoni-led India toured Australia again in 2014-15 ahead of the World Cup and competed in a tri-series. In that series, which also had England, and the World Cup that followed India did not win a single match against Australia. (Quitting Tests May Hurt Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Future as Team India Captain: Kapil Dev)
It was those performances that led to calls of sacking Dhoni as captain and giving the younger Virat Kohli a chance to prove his mettle. The fighter that he is, Dhoni somehow managed to stay afloat though his reputation as a top-notch finisher was continuously being questioned. (Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli Poles Apart as Captains: Ravichandran Ashwin)
In 2015, Dhoni's men were shocked 1-2 in Bangladesh while against South Africa they lost 2-3. In those two ODI series', Dhoni's highest score was 92* (vs the Proteas) while he crossed fifty only twice.
Last Chance to Restore Pride for Team Dhoni
During the current five ODI and three Twenty20 series, captain Dhoni very well knows that this might be his last chance to restore pride in a place which has mostly contributed to his critics' claims to sack him.
The 2011 World Cup-winning captain can take heart from the fact that his personal record in Australia is decent. In 27 ODIs Down Under, he scored 774 runs at 48.37 including five half-centuries. In three Twenty20Is, he scored 78 runs.
With an Australian team in transition, which is without some of their top fast bowlers like Mitchell Starc, Dhoni would surely fancy his chances of a historic series win. No Indian team has ever won a bilateral series, but Dhoni has been the leader of many firsts.
The odds are definitely stacked against this ageing star and if Dhoni is able to pull up the feat, he might very well conquer his 'final frontier.'