Thursday, July 22, 2010


Oh well! It wasn't unexpected at all! This tour of Sri Lanka is the 15th 'away' Test series that India has started, against a Test opponent other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, from 1st January 2000. And this was their 7th loss in the opening Test of such a series.

I thought that being the No. 1 team now would have meant a little bit of change... but then some thing don't change at all. So as Sri Lanka celebrate the great achievement by their favourite son Muttiah Muralitharan to notch up 800 Test wickets... India need to sit back and introspect.

India's record in 2nd Tests on tours where they have lost the 1st one is a little difficult to analyse... out of the 6 previous occasions where India has lost the 1st Test of a tour in 2000s, India has bounced back to a win 2 times, slumped to another defeat 2 times, and managed a draw 2 times. So, it currently stands at 2-2-2.

Whatever the past record says, I will be surprised if India don't fight back with a much better performance in the 2nd Test at Colombo. In particular, I am sure that the batting unit will perform admirable once again. But will India manage to win the Test? That question remains unanswered in my mind.

India's bowling is weak. And Dhoni's captaincy was uninspiring today. Dhoni is fast going the Ponting way. He is a bat-first bully as a captain. In conditions where it is not favourable to bat second and he is forced to do so after losing the toss, he is being found wanted. And the problems have been compounded by the fact that he has now lost his last 5 tosses as a Test captain for India (and batted second in all of them).

Here's an analysis of Tests in which Dhoni has lost the toss and was made to bat second by his opposing captain:

v. South Africa, Kanpur 2008 - India won by 8 wickets - This win came due to the fact that South Africa was rubbish at playing spin on a crumbling pitch. Paul Harris managed to pick 4 wickets in that Test - that should tell the story! I don't think that Dhoni was spectacular in his part-time role as a captain (he was filling in for Anil Kumble then).

v. England, Chennai 2008 - India won by 6 wickets - Dhoni's 4th Test as captain and he was definitely found wanting when the opposition batting unit clicked. Andrew Strauss hit a hundred in each innings, as India crumbled to hand over a 75-run 1st innings advantage. In the second innings, Dhoni couldn't separate the pair of Strauss and Collingwood for a long time. In the end, India managed to win only because of Sehwag's belligerence on the 4th day and Tendulkar's composure on the 5th. Otherwise, this might well have been Dhoni's first loss as a captain.

v. Sri Lanka, Mumbai (BS) 2009 - India won by an innings and 144 runs - When Sri Lanka was batting in the 1st innings, the signs were not good for India. Dilshan and Mathews batted brilliantly and Dhoni was always one step behind the game as Sri Lanka notched up almost 400. Again, Dhoni should thank Sehwag for his brutal 293 that ensured that India managed 726 in reply. Dhoni chipped in with a 100* himself... but then India was already 200 runs ahead when he came in to bat... not exactly a knock under pressure by the captain!

v. Bangladesh, Dhaka 2010 - India won by 10 wickets - Well, it was Bangladesh after all! They have indeed made very decent progress in Test cricket, but they are still Bangladesh!

v. South Africa, Nagpur 2010 - India lost by an innings and 6 runs - Dhoni's first loss as a Test captain was an embarrassing one for the No. 1 Test team. Dhoni looked absolutely clueless as Amla and Kallis piled on 340 runs for the 4th wicket. This showed in an absolutely clear manner that when the opposition is on top, Dhoni starts to sink.

v. South Africa, Kolkata 2010 - India won by an innings and 57 runs - India did manage a win, but Dhoni did look helpless in the first two sessions on Day 1 when Amla and Peterson put on a 209-run 2nd wicket stand. He fared much better once Zaheer and Harbhajan had engineered a collapse to dismiss South Africa eventually for 296. And yes, another ton for the captain... after all, he came in to bat when India was just 12 runs shy of a 100-run lead!

v. Sri Lanka, Galle 2010 - India lost by 10 wickets - I don't need to say a lot. The bats of Paranavitana and Sangakkara did the speaking.

Back in February this year, after India had lost the first Test to South Africa at Nagpur, Avjit Ghosh had written on his blog: "Dhoni is a master of mediocre bowling but is hardly the same batsman against stronger attacks."

I really want to add further that his captaincy is not very different. He needs to start a Test match strongly to be able to dominate. Where India starts a Test on the backfoot, like batting second after losing the toss, he looks helpless and uninspiring as a captain. He still has managed to give a few positive results in such cases, but any captain would have managed that if he had Sehwag and Tendulkar playing the way they did in those cases!

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