Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the crossroads
By winning only three from 11 matches, Rising Pune Supergiants continued their poor form in the IPL and their hope of qualifying for the play-offs look shattered. Is it time for the BCCI and Dhoni to rethink about his future by the business end of IPL
This time it is second stint for Pune (as a city) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). First was in 2011 IPL season, a franchise was formed by Sahara India Pariwar named Pune Warriors India. Despite, some fantastic match winners in the side the team fared badly in three seasons it participated. In a tiff with the Borad of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) , Sahara withdrew Pune Warriors India from the IPL after their league game in 2013. The reason, according to BCCI, was the encashing of the team's bank guarantee after Sahara defaulted on paying the entire franchise fee.
Backing its move to pull out of IPL Sahara stated that it was due to the BCCI's stubborn and disinterested attitude towards the reduction of the Pune team's franchise fee. It also stated that Sahara was "disgusted" by the unsporting and biased attitude of the BCCI.
Puneites were very disappointed by the Sahara's decision. They did not get a chance for a celebration in the IPL, where Mumbaikars celebrated their team's crowning in the IPL twice.
After Supreme Court banned Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, BCCI decided to induct two new teams. Bid was won by Pune and Rajkot, and they had an option to take four players from defunct franchisees. Pune bought MS Dhoni and Faf du Plesis from Chennai and Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith from Rajasthan Royals. These four players were proven match winners.
This time, Puneites expectations were high when they got another team — Pune Supergiants. And they expected some thing big when team appointed India's limited overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as their skipper. Dhoni is one of the most successful captain in the IPL (Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma are the others).
Cricket pundits and commentators predicted a sure spot for Rising Pune Supergiants in this years' play-offs. The team had started on a high-note by winning their first match against neighbours Mumbai Indians by nine wickets. Then they lost four matches in a row. Still Pune fans were believed in Dhoni as he has that capability of came back from behind and winning the title.
But as the tournament progressed, RPS lost match after match. In between they lost there four foreign players -- Steve Smith, Kevin Pieterson, Mitchell Marsh and Faf du Plesis. These players were back bone of the team. After the first injury came in the from Pieterson, Dhoni expressed his confidence by saying that "it can be a blessing in disguise" that he can experiment with new players. Many were hailed "captain cool's" confidence and his positive approach to the game, as he is very much successful in experimenting with the team.
Later on, three more players were injured and he ran out of options to experiment.
What went wrong for Dhoni
After the losses in the initial stages Pundits said that it will take sometime for Dhoni to find winning combination, but don't know how much time it will take? Another newbies Gujarat Lions, under the captaincy of former Super King's star batsman Suresh Raina, is doing good in this season.
It is not right to say that Dhoni failed to find the right combination. With lot of match-winners in the side, it is their failure to perform well as a team and captain's failure to guide them on right path. Other than Ajinkya Rahane, who scored 417 from 11 matches, no other batsman played to their potential. When Smith started to get some runs, he ruled out of the tournament by injury. With bat, Dhoni showed some resilience but failed to capitalise on that.
In the bowling department, Dhoni's most trusted lieutenant Ravichandran Ashwin was a flop. In some matches, even Dhoni was not giving him bowl to complete his quota of four overs. There was a time Ashwin was Dhoni's go for man in Twenty20 and One day matches (only in Indian conditions, he also played in foreign soils but was an utter failure).
Dhoni mostly relied on spinners and medium bowlers. He was not willing to give more chances to Albie Morkel (bowling all-rounder), Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and Ishwar Pandey (he did not play a single match). Only Murugan Ashwin and Thisara Perera gave some hope to Dhoni and sometimes Rajat Bhatia too.
This season fans and cricket lovers were very disappointed with Dhoni's many decisions. Many were criticised Dhoni's stand on Irfan Pathan as Pathan played only one match. Many were took it to social media to troll Dhoni's decision. It seems like Pathan was kind of travelling all-rounder and water boy in the team. If Pathan was in any another team, he could have played more matches.
For the past two years Dhoni had lost his midas touch in his captaincy. Recently concluded Twenty 20 world cup was a biggest example of that. In the past, whatever decision he took in the field came in the way for him. He was known for his cool approach in and off the field but recently he even losing the temperament. Inviting a journalist to sit with him in the press conference when he asked about the retirement was one example.
His failure in this season's IPL may be temporary, he might come back brilliantly in the next season (it is also unlikely as franchisees do not take much risks with a failed captain). But now its time for BCCI to think about another skipper to lead the team as he Dhoni is losing his touch in the captaincy. But he still can be a good wicket-keeper batsman who can play big shots in final overs. And I don't think so his ego will allowing him to do that.
Saurav Ganguly's words were hint for the BCCI to rethink, if they want Team India to lift the 2019 cricket world cup in England, it better to chose someone else as captain.
Dhoni has lot of time to think about this as after IPL, as India is mostly playing tests. Only limited over series is against Zimbabwe in June and the BCCI will most likely to sent a new team. So it gives ample time for Dhoni think about his own future. Time for MSD is running out fast. A great player deserves to go on a high not when one is struggling and allowing critics cannon fodder to poke fun.