A chase of 41 shouldn’t have given England the rashes. Yet, they somehow misplaced three wickets for eight. Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin were getting strange gyrations on the ball. What’s more, India managed to dismiss Alastair Cook (1) and Kevin Pietersen (0) in the dead piece. But the Test was long over.
It came as a relief when Ian Bell knocked down the runs to take England 2-1 ahead in the series. R Ashwin had missed his second Test hundred by nine runs. His knock had all the attributes of a top-order bat, and it may have perhaps made India’s batting heavyweights delve deeper. Couldn’t any of them have batted like him?
Earlier in the day, an incensed Sandeep Patil had an animated conversation with coach Duncan Fletcher. But the man in the heated cauldron was the Indian captain. For the first time ever, MS Dhoni was asked if he would consider stepping down.
“As a leader, this is a challenge thrown at me,” Dhoni said. “It is always good to lead a side when you are performing well. That is not the time you need a leader. Leading a side is all about when the team is not doing well. To try to gel the team together. To back the youngsters, back the seniors. Try to move in the right direction. The easiest thing to do for me right now is to quit the captaincy and stay part of the side. That’s running away from responsibility that’s upon us.”
Subtle changes in his style, Dhoni agreed, were inevitable going into the Nagpur Test. “You can’t expect me to start shouting, that’s not me,” Dhoni said.
For now, the factors are stacked against him.
Great leaders, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi for instance, would risk defeat in pursuit of a victory. It’s an allowance that will not be granted to Dhoni anymore. The Nawab was 21 when he was thrust into the job. He showed a streak of fearlessness. Dhoni is five years into the job, a period when the mind hits a plateau and you stop enjoying the job.
For evidence, look no beyond than the Kolkata Test. There were times India played the waiting game for too long instead of creating opportunities for themselves.
Does Dhoni have the resources to tap into? A few of India’s seniors are beset with doubts. As it goes in sport, when you’re too consumed by your own form, you lend nothing to the team. The captain, invariably, has too much on his plate at the neglect of his own game. Sourav Ganguly admittedly became so involved in mentoring his boys that his runs dried up.
Ganguly still had a sound support staff and John Wright to fall back upon. Dhoni insists that in Fletcher, India have a coach who’s an authority on technique. It appears that Fletcher has been just that and nothing more.