If you ever have to make a list of bizarre captaincy in Test matches then Mahendra Singh Dhoni is someone who is surely going to feature prominently in that list due to the absolute gems that he has pulled off in the past 3 years or so.
The notorious strategy of not going for the second new ball during the second Test against South Africa at Durban (a match India lost to lose the series) was perhaps not enough for Dhoni. Infact, that might have prompted him to unleash his latest masterclass decision at Wellington against New Zealand. It was a Test match that India had to win to square the series and return with something from the tour; however Dhoni’s baffling tactics on the 3rd and 4th day of the Test match made sure that New Zealand was able to save the Test after being on the mat for large parts till then.
This was a Test match that India could have won on the back of an excellent first innings show, both with the bat and the ball; however all the work went up in smoke by the time New Zealand’s second innings reached a stage in which the captain had to make a decision. New Zealand were in dire straits at 94/5 in the 38th over when Corey Anderson was dismissed and that is the sort of situation in which a truly aggressive captain would have gone for the jugular and put the foot in to drive home the advantage. Dhoni had runs to play with in this instance since even at that stage New Zealand still had to score 152 runs to avoid an innings defeat. But the captain chose to take the bizarre route and tried to contain the flow of runs by setting defensive fields to the fast bowlers who had been so effective that far. For anyone, who might have been unaware of the status of the game would have thought that New Zealand were 300 runs ahead and looking to declare the innings after adding a quick 100 runs to the lead; such was the sort of fields set by the captain.
Replace defensive MS Dhoni with aggressive Virat Kohli: Ian Chappell http://t.co/qW06sli626
— Times of India (@timesofindia) February 23, 2014
Dhoni perhaps expected McCullum to go for his strokes in an effort to scatter the field but rather than waiting for the batsman to make the move, he did it himself and thus presented the New Zealand skipper with an opportunity to settle down by stroking to ball to different parts of the ground for singles. What was the harm if McCullum or Watling had scored a few boundaries? Dhoni could at least have waited for such an onslaught before pressing the panic button and in addition to that, the catching men could well have been in action if the pair had tried to do something of that nature.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) February 18, 2014
A captain who has the luxury of runs should logically attack the opposition as much as he can and even more so when there is a golden opportunity of squaring the series. The fourth day was no better as India continued to look unthreatening and the match was taken away from their hands by a combination of excellent batting by the Kiwi pair and comical captaincy by a captain who was clearly out of his depth. Perhaps, it is time for India to look beyond Dhoni as a captain in Test cricket and sooner it is, the better.
By Soham Samaddar
Image Source: espncricinfo.com