As Team India gets ready to take on South Africa in the five-match ODI series, all eyes will be on India’s ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After losing the Twenty20 series and before that a humiliating ODI series loss in Bangladesh, the midas touch once associated with MSD is vanishing quite rapidly.
India’s most successful skipper is now suddenly feeling the pressure to deliver and time is certainly running out. He cannot afford to let his guard down now. The ODI series against South Africa is of huge importance for MSD. A loss here would mean that there would be clarion calls all around to replace him with the much more aggressive Test skipper Virat Kohli. A win on the other hand might just allow him to lead the side in the 2016 Twenty World Cup at home. And who knows given the way he abruptly ended his Test career in Australia, the Twenty20 World Cup next year could be his swansong from International cricket.
Dhoni has often surprised his fans and critics with his decisions be it cricket or his personal life. Like, nobody for instance had a clue that he would marry in hush hush manner and settle down with Sakshi and become a family man forever, staying away from being linked to a Bollywood actress. That is MSD for you. Always springing a surprise.
Team India director Ravi Shastri had reportedly said that the reason MSD quit for Test cricket was the fact that he knew that Virat Kohli was ready to take over. That was in Tests. Now ironically a similar situation has arisen in the shorter formats too.
The another apt reason for the shaky MSD can be attributed to the shake up within the BCCI . So long as N Srinivasan was the BCCI president and calling all the shots with no-challengers in sight, MSD had the comfort zone . He was firmly settled. Remember how selector Mohinder Amarnath lost his job after he wanted sacking of MSD as skipper after he lost 8 consecutive Test matches abroad? Srinivasan overturned Amarnath’s move. With Srinivasan in control, MSD sealed the deal with the BCCI openly when he became the vice- president of India Cements. The blatant brazen alliance was seen on the field too with as many five Chennai Super Kings (CSK) players featuring in the Indian team on the field – Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohit Sharma. It did a great promotion for India Cements as well.
This MSD-Srini alliance worked well until the 2013 spot- fixing scandal emerged. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested and sent to jail also and the Justice Lodha committee banned him from life for betting activities. He was part of the Chennai Super Kings hierarchy as a team co owner but MSD in his deposition or statements had stated that Meiyappan was a mere ‘cricket enthusiast’ a defence that only saw MSD come under intense media criticism. The scandal eventually saw N Srinivasan ousted from the very Board he controlled with a vice-like grip. To be now replace by Shashank Manohar. And adding to MSD’s woes is the fact that his IPL team CSK has been banned for two years. And their fate is today uncertain.
It is not only Srinivasan’s exit that is hurting MSD. The close rapport of Team Director Ravi Shastri and Test skipper Virat Kohli is the other palpable reason for the discomfort. His once favourite sir Ravindra Jadeja has been ousted from all formats. Harbhajan Singh, has reportedly said that the sole reason for his long sabbatical from Team India was due to the fact the MSD made him feel unwanted. He heaped praise on Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri for having faith in him and his return to the side.
The Twenty20 series against Proteas was a test for MSD. He had returned after a three month break. People expected fireworks. But it did not happen. Team India lost the series and Dhoni looked jaded. His batting was a letdown and his captaincy, particularly team selection, left a lot to be desired. Critics have questioned the rationale of playing Ambati Rayudu ahead of Ajinkya Rahane. It was one of the blunders that cost the team heavily.
So for the ‘captain cool’, ‘captain marvel’ or skipper with the ‘midas touch’ MSD, it is crunch time to stand up and deliver. As one knows given the 24X7 media and certainly one news channel’s NewsHour – the debate to remove Dhoni with Virat Kohli will only grow louder in case he falters. So, the onus is now squarely on MSD to prove that he is not finished yet at 33. Can he do it ? Time will surely tell but for MSD time is running away fast.