Abject – Harsha Bhogle started his post match show with that word describing whatever happened in the last session of Day 3 at Manchester.
How do you describe that batting display from India?
You don’t. After watching that parade, you switch off the television, log off twitter, disconnect from the internet and curl into bed trying to forget the way India threw away the game.
May be but I am angry and if MS Dhoni is not, then there are serious issues that lie ahead. 21st July, I was overjoyed but in two weeks, the Indian cricket team has managed to pull off a string of displays that’s made Harsha Bhogle struggle for adjectives.
“We were not up to the mark”, – MS Dhoni said to Mike Atherton. Sorry MS, you got that wrong. India weren’t off the mark. In the words of Billy Bean – first, there’s the mark, then you miss the mark, then there’s fifty feet of crap and after that, there’s the batting display from India in Manchester.
I normally don’t fly off the handle. Neither am I a harsh critic because, unlike most fans, I understand how hard the game is and so, try to reason out a bad performance. Sadly, I can’t do that after Manchester and neither can the Indian media. So, we have done what we do best – ‘Blame it on MS’!
Manchester was a tough loss to digest and it took me good two days to calm down and put things in perspective (if there was one, that is!) but I was appalled by the way the Indian media has found a way to spin the ‘Manchester mess’ as a direct result of Dhoni’s tactics.
And here I thought, after a long time, MS Dhoni got things absolutely right the day the Test began. He picked five bowlers – as ‘we’ prescribed. Dropped Rohit Sharma and included Gautam Gambhir and Ashwin in the eleven – as the billion ‘intelligent’ minds recommended. Won the toss and elected to bat – as Dada and Shane Warne advised in the pre-show.
Where was the tactical mistake?
He did exactly what was required. On a brown pitch, bat out the first hour and the game was there for the taking. Instead, India slumped to eight for four (yes, I had to put that in words!). There was a bit of nip off-the-track and England bowled brilliantly, take nothing away from them but apart from Murali Vijay, every one of those wickets could have been avoided had the Indians applied themselves.
A couple did – R. Ashwin, who looked like a million dollars with the willow in hand and MS Dhoni, a man who isn’t supposed to succeed in English conditions. Ashwin batted delectably for his 40 but MS Dhoni’s innings of 71 was an underrated gem, given the circumstances.
India, somehow, scraped to 152 and with an okay-ish bowling effort, the match was still on. All India had to do was to dig in on a good track, build an innings and let hurricane Bertha take care of the rest. India blew it and how.
However, according to the media and a few ‘experts’, MS Dhoni is the one to be blamed for it. The collapse happened because Pankaj Singh started the proceedings of Day 3 and not Varun Aaron. The collapse happened because Ravindra Jadeja bowled a middle-leg stump line in Southampton. The collapse happened because MS Dhoni placed the leg slip a couple of degrees closer than normal.
Mind you, that collapse had nothing to do with Gautam Gambhir’s non-existing footwork, M. Vijay’s diminishing confidence, Che Pujara’s lapses in concentration, Virat Kohli’s refusal to learn from his mistakes or Ajinkya Rahane’s ‘I-will-play-one-silly-shot-every-innings’ syndrome.
The collapse happened because MS Dhoni charged down to Moeen Ali and threw away his wicket.
The Indian media is justified in blaming MS Dhoni because the more you think of that batting performance, the worse it gets. Durban 1996 springs to mind, but there you had Donald, Pollock, Klusener, McMillan to deal with. Barbados 1997 flashes by but that featured a four-pronged pace attack led by King Curtly.
Manchester 2014 has Moeen Ali etched on it – a man who’s spun a yarn that has evaded the likes of Shane Warne, Muralitharan and Graeme Swann. Now that’s a piece of history (and mystery!) that has confounded both the Indian media and Kohli and co.
In the 1990s, fingers were easily pointed at the W.V. Ramans and the Vikram Rathores but 2014 Manchester doesn’t give us that luxury. Virat Kohli, Che Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, M. Vijay, Gautam Gambhir – that’s serious quality. However, this batting unit has succumbed under pressure a few times now, especially, the middle-order. They are not bad players by any stretch of imagination but have played poorly.
They are not bad players by any stretch of the imagination but have played poorly. The shot selection has been substandard, the zeal of digging-in missing and the skeletons of their techniques have been exposed. And after about 30 Tests, the excuse of being ‘inexperienced at Test level’ is also running thin. Then again, arguments like ‘technical deficiencies’ don’t really appeal much to Indian audiences, but a #yoDhonisodefensive trend immediately hits home.
Since the Lord’s Test, India has hit a downward spiral and MS Dhoni has his share to be borne. He has made mistakes. Glaring ones. His wicket-keeping has been below par and a few of his on-field decisions have been baffling. But hoping that we will get the sarcasm behind – “We will get two extra days of rest,” – was perhaps the biggest one.
So, MS Dhoni was the man behind the ‘Manchester mess’, period.
May be he was because he is now India’s worst captain overseas and when Harsha Bhogle says, “Does MS Dhoni really believe his team can win?” and bails out the batsmen, a #Dhonifanboy like me can only smile, nod and join the #Dhoniout bandwagon, however, abject it might sound.
Sorry MS, we don’t care how well you bat, we just don’t know who else to blame.