India take on Australia in a virtual quarter-final this evening at Mohali.
The other three semi-final places have already been booked.
West Indies, New Zealand and England are through to the business end of the World T20.
India are favourites having thrashed the Kangaroos 3-0 Down Under but not before losing the ODI series 1-4.
No team has won the World T20 more than once.
Every edition has been unpredictable.
India, Pakistan, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka have all been crowned victors in this topsy-turvy format.
With no time for recovery from any mistakes, the team which turns up wins.
A stellar performance with the bat or ball is more than enough to decide a game.
If past trends hold, we ought to have a new champion.
Should Australia win tonight and the trend continue, it could be either New Zealand or Australia lifting the trophy, with the prospect of a mouth-watering repeat of last year’s ODI World Cup final.
Indian fans will be disappointed though.
“There will be a conflict of interest if I start reviewing my performance. You have to put a PIL to judge my performance as the skipper.”
—Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni is the ageing boxer who knows the script but does he have the punch?—
Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 23, 2016
Is Ravi Shastri transforming into an MS Dhoni clone?
Sample his recent statements about Team India’s performance Down Under:
Whether Indian batsmen were too focused on milestones:
“If they were focusing on milestones, Virat Kohli wouldn’t have been the fastest to 7000 runs; he would have taken another 100 games. If that was the case, Rohit Sharma would not be having two double hundreds, and a score of 264.”
On the bowling performance:
“Finishing touch is better bowling, and being more consistent as a bowling unit. As MS mentioned, there were too many easy boundaries. It is not like the batsmen had to earn it, they were given. That should be eliminated. Even if you cut that by 60%, we will have tighter games. Those are the areas. Attention to basics. If we do that right, who knows…
What you want to see is the bowlers learning from what has happened in the first three games. If that happens, that will be the biggest plus irrespective of the result. That is what I said last year when we played cricket in Australia. We might have lost the series 2-0, but deep inside I knew the way the boys played there was only going to be improvement.
It is a young side, there have been three debutants, we have been plagued by injuries. No excuses, I am not giving any excuses here, but it is an opportunity for the youngsters to learn. In Australia nothing comes easy. It’s one of the hardest places to play. You are playing against the world champions. The fact that you are competing, and they have competed right through this one-day series, is very good. “
On whether the team needs a psychotherapist:
“I am the shrink, don’t worry about that.As far as extra bowlers are concerned, yes we do need (them). We need bench strength. If you look at the last six days, we have been in three time zones. It is not often you go through that.
You play in Perth, get on a flight to Brisbane where the time is different, then to Melbourne where the time is different. All in a matter of six days. When you consider all that, I think the boys have done extremely well.
When it comes to bowling, what I would suggest in the future to the BCCI is to have extra players. Instead of 15 on a tour like this, probably 16 would be advisable. Somewhere in the subcontinent 15 is fine. Here, when you travel so far, and suddenly you get injuries, that is something I will suggest. At least 7-8 bowlers have to be there with the amount of cricket.”
Compare these statements against MSD’s:
“It is not about the leader. I am captain at the moment and somebody else will come later. It is more important to see the areas we are lacking, the departments which have to improve when it comes to shorter formats. We don’t have a seaming all rounder so let’s not even go to that topic. If you see this series it is a relatively inexperienced bowling lineup. Ishant Sharma has played a lot of international cricket but he is not someone who has been consistently part of the format. Umesh Yadav has been on and off and there are others who have made their debuts here. So we have to assess right now is how good the individuals are and what are they doing and what’s their rate of development.”
Don’t the duo sound about the same?
Is this the gung-ho Ravi Shastri we are all accustomed to?
Contrast these statements against those he made last year when India toured Sri Lanka.
When Team India suffered a shock defeat in the first Test in Galle under Virat Kohli:
“Let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice, because we will not change our style of play. Our mindset will be the same. But to close the deal you have to walk the distance and we made that mistake in the first Test. They are getting closer and for this team, it is a case of getting one on board. Then it will be the start of many. It was not a question of buckling under pressure. They go out with intent. The endeavour of this team is to play fearless cricket that comes with mindset. These boys have enough talent. I am sure they must have thought after the match why I didn’t play this shot, why I didn’t play in this manner.”
On changing their losing away record:
“You don’t come to a cricket ground to draw a match so you play a brand of cricket where you look to take the game forward and you look to take 20 wickets, that is paramount. You have got to think how you can take 20 wickets to take the game forward and win the game.”
While the Indian batting has delivered and in spades, the bowling has left a lot to be desired.
But has the Indian side really played fearless cricket in the past four games?
Can Ravi Shastri respond?
Anuraag Thakur of the BCCI vocalised his support for MS Dhoni’s continuance as skipper in the shorter formats of the game.
Dhoni has lost his last three series as captain whereas Virat Kohli has earned his stripes at home instilling aggression and dynamism that seemed lacking in recent times under MSD.
Does Team India really need two leaders? Not really. Kohli is more than capable of leading the side in all three formats. And team-members will not have to readjust every time the other takes over the reins.
Dhoni leaves behind a tremendous legacy but it’s time for a change in approach.
The losing streak has to end.
The multiple leaders theory came into existence because there were quite a few players who were unable to make the adjustment to the shorter formats. But modern cricketers are more adaptable and thus I foresee a reverse trend towards only one skipper in all three formats.
Similar changes have been effected in South Africa and Australia with Steve Smith and AB DeVilliers leading the side in both Test and ODI formats.
While there will always be Test and ODI and T20 specialists, it is the more versatile players who will be the natural leaders of cricketing sides, the ones who are able to adjust and exhibit both strategic and tactical acumen in all formats. Multi-dimensional cricketers are the need of the hour when it comes to choosing leaders.
What will Dhoni’s role in the side be? Can he continue as a player?
He’s certainly fit enough to contribute and his experience cannot be discounted.
The Big Three of Indian cricket, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid soldiered on as players much after giving up or losing out on the captaincy. Can Dhoni do an encore?
As long as the Indian team keeps winning, Dhoni, the skipper, is inseparable from Dhoni, the player.
But once the side starts losing its moorings, Dhoni, the player, comes under the microscope.
The Indians lost the T20 series 2-0 to South Africa. A fair result would have been 1-1.
And the questions about Dhoni’s place in the squad start cropping up all over again.
This is not a new phenomenon.
The very same doubts were raised earlier this year when the Indians were outclassed in the tri-series Down Under.
A semi-final finish at the ODI World Cup and all doubts were swept under the carpet.
The victories have dried up; Mahi has lost his magic touch.
Dhoni’s batting record in ODI’s over the past year has been 485 runs at an average of 44.09 and a highest score of 85 not out.
This is against his career average of 52.24.
His T20 record is insignificant since he has batted in just two T20s this year.
While critics may be baying for his blood, his performances with the bat cannot be held against him—yet.
It is his position as skipper that is under threat especially given the new-found aggression Team India have discovered under Virat Kohli.
It is always going to be difficult for team-members to adjust from one leader’s all-out attacking instincts to another’s more laidback, restrained approach.
It is results that matter though and that’s where Dhoni will have to take charge in the upcoming ODI series against South Africa.
His leadership is being disputed.
His treatment of Ajinkya Rahane baffles cricket connoisseurs.
How can Team India’s best batsman over the past two years be left out from the ODI and T20 sides?
Does Dhoni really prefer Ambati Rayudu, a player more in the Dhoni mould?
Rayudu is no slouch with the bat in T20s as his exploits with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL prove.
Does he really need to warm the bench?
Dhoni does not feel the need to change his mind.
Talking about Rahane’s chances of selection for the first ODI at Green Park in Kanpur, he said:
“I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say. Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don’t think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven.”
Speaking about his own performance in the T20 series, the Indian skipper characteristically remarked:
“I personally feel that I used too much brain in this format.It’s very important I keep myself free and go and play my strokes. Depending on that I play a bit slow initially. In this format, I believe I should play the big shots from the word go irrespective of whatever the scenario is because that’s what this format is all about. A lot of time when I go into bat, be it the 16th or 17th over or in the fourth or fifth overs when wickets have fallen down, I have the tendency of like let’s go to 130, that will be good score.”
Former India bowler Ajit Agarkar has sounded the warning bells about Dhoni’s place in the side.
“The selectors need to have a closer look at what Dhoni is doing, not just as captain, but as a player as well.He has been a great player for India, but you don’t want him to become a liability for the team. And he needs to perform a lot better than he has (been). Just because he has done it over the years, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to fail.”
Agarkar feels that Dhoni’s moving up the order is simply to give himself chances to keep his place in the side and not in the best interests of the squad.
“I’m not convinced he should bat at four. Just after a World Cup, you’re now trying to develop your team for the next World Cup. Four years is a long time, but for Dhoni, towards the end of his career, to put himself up, I’m not sure about it. You can understand if there are batsmen who can’t bat 3 and 4. But there is Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of your best players in Test cricket and I don’t think he can bat lower than four in ODIs yet, unless he changes his game over his career.
Dhoni seems to have lost that ability of going out there and smashing it from ball one. He obviously takes his time. But he batted up the order in Bangladesh, and India still lost the series. All his career when people wanted him to bat up because he is so good and has that destructive ability, he has always maintained that he wants and needs to bat at No.6, where he can handle the pressure.
It’s a hard job batting at 5, 6 and 7. I’ve seen Yuvraj and MS himself do it for so long, but that doesn’t mean that it changes at this stage in his career. You’ve got to have guys who are good at certain numbers. And at the moment MS by promoting himself, is getting a Rahane or anyone else who bats there, into trouble. I would still have Raina and Dhoni at 5 and 6, so contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t think Dhoni should be batting at four at this stage in his career.”
Agarkar believes that Dhoni may not be the future when it comes to ODIs and T20s, specifically when it comes to leading the side.
“Looking at the results, India have generally been good in ODIs, but you’ve lost the World Cup semi-final, then you’ve lost in Bangladesh where Dhoni was captain twice, and you’ve now lost a T20 series. Yes, the T20s can go either way very quickly so you don’t want to judge someone, but for Dhoni this is a big series.
The selectors maybe need to look at where the Indian team is heading because Virat Kohli has done well as captain in Test cricket so maybe the selectors need to make that call after this series.”
Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, batted for his former skipper and teammate.
Speaking to Gulf News, he said:
“Cricketers like Dhoni have played for a long time, over ten years, and he understands himself, understands his body and mind-set better than anyone else.
The best thing one can do is move aside and let him take decisions [about his career] rather than taking decisions for him. You have got to give that respect to the player who has done so much for the nation and I would leave it to him and let him be the best judge. He has served Indian cricket in the best manner and let him be the decision taker.”
Dhoni, skipper and player, has been written off before; he has always proved his detractors wrong. He believes in going by gut instinct whether it is handing the last over in the T20 World Cup final to a rookie like Joginder Sharma or quitting as Test skipper midway through a series Down Under. The timing of these moves has been impeccable. The unorthodox acts may no longer work as expected but he is still capable of surprising scribes and fans alike.
This series could either be his swan song or the beginning of another golden chapter until the next T20 World Cup.
Whatever his fate, Indian cricket will always cherish ‘Captain Cool’ and his formidable achievements in the shorter versions of the game.
It’s extraordinary when one looks back that this is Dhoni’s 11th year as an international cricketer. It seems much longer. That’s the kind of impact he’s had both as captain and player. It’s also a tribute to his supreme levels of fitness that he has rarely missed series due to injury. He will be missed.
Go well, MS.
When will Indian fans realize that unruly behaviour is never going to prevent their beloved team losing?
It only serves to reinforce the feeling that cricket followers in India are neither sporting nor knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game.
They lack the maturity to accept defeat—unlike the very cricketers they idolise.
The pelting of the South Africans with water bottles at the Barabarti stadium in Cuttack to signal the crowd’s displeasure with their team’s abject batting display was yet another black mark in the annals of Indian fandom.
Rajarshi Majumdar, writing for International Business Times, termed their behaviour ‘barbaric’.
The journo said:
“The name Barabati can somewhat be related to the word ‘barbaric’ and why won’t someone draw such relations!”
“Will these same bunch of chaotic people throw their valuables at the players when they win a game?”
The South Africans are ranked No.1 in Tests and despite termed ‘chokers’ in ICC ODI and T20 tournaments, are no pushovers in bilateral series.
Team India have ceded the T20 series without much ado.
The initiative has been surrendered.
MS Dhoni was sanguine about the entire episode.
“We should not be taking such things seriously. I still remember we play in Vizag once and we won the game very easily and that time also a lot of bottles were thrown. It starts with the first bottle and then it’s more of a fun for the spectators.
When it comes to the safety of the players, I don’t think there was any serious threat. A few of the powerful people in the crowd were throwing the bottles into the ground and the umpires felt it was safe to stay in the centre or go off the ground.
We didn’t play well and at times you get a reaction like these. It’s only the first few bottles that are hurled with serious intent, after that they just do it for fun.”
His counterpart, Faf Du Plessis, was not.
“It’s not nice to see it. I have played 5-6 years of cricket in India, and I have never seen that. So, you don’t want that to be a part of the game. You come here to compete, and the best team walks away winning.
To have that happening, I don’t think it’s a good thing. It should not happen. Even the way the game was played towards the end, it lost its intensity because obviously India thought that we have already won as we needed only 20 runs. Disappointing in that sense, and hopefully it is the first and the last time we see it on this tour.”
He was not sure whether the boorish behaviour was a sub-continental malaise.
“It is a difficult question to answer. All around the world you get people who get really passionate about their team. Sometimes you cross that boundary you shouldn’t. This is the first time I have experienced in India, so I can’t say it happens a lot. But as you said, it happens a lot in the sub-continental conditions. That’s definitely to do with the passion that fans have. But, it is surely not something we as players want to be a part of the game. Obviously, player security is very important wherever we go across the world. Let’s just hope that it’s a bad day at the office.”
Speaking to NDTV, Sunny Gavaskar blasted the miscreants:
“Cuttack should not be given an international for the next couple of years. As a deterrent, the BCCI must also stop the subsidy to the Odisha Cricket Association.Do the crowd throw valuables when the team does well? When the team does badly, the fans have no business to throw rubbish.”
Aggressive behaviour and attitudes on the field are punished by match referees when reported by on-field umpires. Players are checked by limits imposed by the ICC Code of Conduct.
Is it time sports administrators and patrons of the game demanded the same of fans? Can they be allowed to rum amok whenever they please? Does safety in numbers and anonymity imply that they are allowed to carry their rage over to cricket grounds? Or is it time the Indian penal system implemented measures like in the UK and Germany where known hooligans are closely watched and even prevented from travelling abroad because of the mischief they can wreak there? Isn’t it time?
Anger need not be ‘bottled‘.
Was it obstruction or was it self-defence?
Was it deliberate or was it instinctive?
Preservation of one’s self is an instinctive response in any living creäture.
Was Ben Stokes any different?
There is no one way to decide it—it all depends on which side you’re rooting for.
The third umpire’s decision is final. And Joe Wilson adjudged the left-hander out.
And that’s how it should have stayed.
Sure, Stokes was the first English batsman to be dismissed in such a fashion in an ODI.
Sure, he was only the seventh batter in cricketing history to be kayoed so cruelly.
Sure, to be run-out is the unhappiest and unlikeliest way any cricketer expects or wishes to be dismissed and to be considered wilful in obstructing the natural course of a game is worse.
The opposing skippers have their viewpoints.
Steve Smith called for a referral after appealing and has no qualms about his decision. He will not be losing any sleep over it.
“If you’re out of your crease and put your hand up to stop the ball, it’s out.
It might have looked a bit worse because it went back to the bowler, but it’s exactly the same as me turning for a second run, putting my arm out and stopping the ball.
The ball wasn’t going to hit him, he was out of his crease, he put his arm out and got in the way of the ball. The ball was going very close to hitting the stumps.
If you read the rule book, we’re well within our rights to appeal and the umpires have given it out.
Not at all. I’ve got no dramas with that (his decision to appeal).
I thought it was the right decision at the time and I still think it’s the right decision.”
The English were united in deriding Smith’s characterisation of his act.
English skipper, Eoin Morgan, said:
“A guy throws the ball in your direction and all you can do is flinch.
You don’t have time to think. It was a natural reaction to avoid the ball. Mitchell Starc was about five yards away from Ben Stokes.
The decision was made. It would have been a lot different if we were fielding.”
(Would it, Morgan, would it, really? Easier said than done, Eoin, easier said than done.)
Michael Vaughan said :
“Anyone who has played the game knows that when the ball is thrown at you from close range like that you put your hand up to protect yourself. When you see it in real time he fears the ball is going to hit him. It was obvious. It was a poor decision.”
Alec Stewart added:
“He was taking evasive action; he’s looking the other way. Show me someone who can catch the ball looking the other way?
You would have thought between the three umpires that common sense would have prevailed.”
Shane Warne was not quite rooting for Smith and his side.
Law 37 (Obstructing the field) states quite categorically:
“1. Out Obstructing the field
Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action. In particular, but not solely, it shall be regarded as obstruction and either batsman will be out Obstructing the field if while the ball is in play and after the striker has completed the act of playing the ball, as defined in Law 33.1, he wilfully strikes the ball with
(i) a hand not holding the bat, unless this is in order to avoid injury. See also Law 33.2 (Not out Handled the ball).
(ii) any other part of his person or with his bat. See also Law 34 (Hit the ball twice).
2. Accidental obstruction
It is for either umpire to decide whether any obstruction or distraction is wilful or not. He shall consult the other umpire if he has any doubt.”
Stokes himself is not chuffed about the manner of his exit.
Team-mate, Steve Finn, was quite vocal with his antipathy.
“I think everyone in the dressing room, when we saw it in real time, we all thought he was taking evasive action. When you watch it in slo-mo, the fielding team were entitled to appeal if you’re going by the letter of the game. The fact that it was in slow-motion didn’t help Ben’s cause.
How often does the bowler feign to throw the ball but doesn’t actually do it? But this time he did let the ball go and, by the time you realise the bowler has actually let the ball go, then first and foremost you’re worried for your safety rather than worrying about where your stumps are.
Everyone in the dressing room was disappointed but I don’t think the game was won or lost at that moment. In the dressing room, we weren’t overly happy.”
If there was any doubt in Smith’s mind about the mode of dismissal, he should have retracted his appeal and let the game continue. This would have been within the ambit of the Spirit of the Game. He need not have looked further than former India Test skipper MS Dhoni and his recent magnanimity in rescinding his appeal against Ian Bell’s dismissal for walking out for tea before the bails were whipped off by the on-field umpires. But I guess, no one, least of all Steven Smith, wishes to be termed a sucker in this ultra-competitive day and age.
What he said:
“A lot of time we are asked what spirit of cricket is. What I feel is it is something you don’t want your kids to do when they are playing.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni re-defines the spirit of cricket. The Indian skipper does not need the ICC definition that states that “cricket is always played in a truly sportsmanlike manner.”
“Till they are not abusing each other, and don’t cross the line, it(aggression) is fine. A lot of kids and elderly people also watch the game. A lot of time we are asked what spirit of cricket is. What I feel is it is something you don’t want your kids to do when they are playing.
If anything that is within the boundaries, within the guidelines of the game, I am happy with it. You also want a bit of aggression in the game because it provides entertainment to the spectators.”
What he really meant:
“You wouldn’t want your kids sledging you when you’re playing backyard or courtyard cricket, do you?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“It’s all part and parcel of the game. Kids should take to sledging like a fish to water.”
What he said:
“Why should I ask him to resign?”
N Srinivasan is not conflicted about whether he should retain Indian skipper MS Dhoni as an India Cements Limited employee and Chennai Super Kings captain.
The beleaguered BCCI chief was rapped by the Supreme Court for a conflict of interest in the hearing on the Mudgal commission report’s investigation into the IPL spot-fixing scandal.
Replying to reporters as to what Dhoni’s role was at ICL, the ICC chairman snapped:
“Why should I tell you?
What he really meant:
“Who am I to ask Dhoni to quit while I don’t? Why should he? Is he my son-in-law?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Am I my CSK team’s skipper’s keeper?”