MS Dhoni has forgotten a lesson he might have been taught in school ‑ that every time you point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at you. He has blamed his batsmen, his bowlers, his fielders, his luck, the rain gods, the Aussies, everyone and everything except himself for failing to make it past the Super Eight in the Twenty20 World Cup in conditions that favoured India.
True, India lost just one game. But what a loss it was!
On a sticky Colombo pitch, where the ball does not come on to the bat, India chose to bat first after winning the toss. We had played here in a one-day series right before the World Cup and we knew batting gets easier as the evening gets cooler and the pitch smoother. The only game we lost in that one-day series was when we chose to bat first.
Lest you think this is post facto analysis, let me confess I am repeating myself here. A Beamer before the World Cup had urged Dhoni to bat second if he could. Another Beamer asked him to keep things simple, and not be a Captain Fool.
Alas, he does not read the papers! He said so himself at a press conference.
So what did he do? He won the toss in that first Super Eight game against the Aussies and picked batting. Even if he hadn’t got the benefit of all that gyan about the pitch easing up etc, he might have at least paid heed to the rain forecast for that evening.
Everyone knows by now, or should know, that the team batting second in a rain-shortened match has a big advantage under the Duckworth-Lewis system. So what were Dhoni and coach Duncan thinking?
In the event, the match was shortened by Watson and not the rain, which made a brief appearance just before the Aussies batted to drench the outfield and smoothen the pitch. With our hapless spinners unable to grip the wet ball or get any purchase off the pitch, the Aussies knocked off the target of 141 in the 15th over itself with 31 balls to spare. It was because of this huge deficit in run rate when India got knocked out despite winning the next two games.
Only Messrs Dhoni and Duncan could have put us in such a spot. There was no way the Aussies could have won by such a margin, or even won at all, on that pitch without the aid of rain against an Indian eleven fielding three frontline spinners plus Yuvraj. It was a done deal if only Dhoni had opted to bowl on winning the toss. The rain would have helped us instead of the Aussies.
Okay, you can’t predict the rain. But even in dry weather, it’s an advantage to field first on that pitch. The Pakistanis too (how like us they are!) chose to bat first and lost to us. The South Africans under Gary Kirsten wisely chose fielding and that was why they lost by just one run on a slow, spin-friendly pitch that suited India. If they had batted first, India might have beaten them by the required margin to squeak through to the semis.
Dhoni copped a lot of flak for swinging from one extreme to another in his selection, from playing three specialist spinners in the first game to just one in the next two. But the bigger fault was not knowing what to do after winning the toss. Ours is the only team that is better off losing the toss, like in the finals of the 50-over World Cup.