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Why MS Dhoni is not good news for Indian cricket anymore

India Today logo India Today 17-06-2016

Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not want to miss out on an opportunity to play for India amidst a season that is packed with Test matches. In Zimbabwe, leading a second-string team, Dhoni has made the most out of the chance by helping the team complete a whitewash against the hosts, thereby ending his 20-month wait for an ODI series win.

The win, despite coming against the minnows should have given him the much-needed respite. Over the two years, there has been a severe drought in his famous trophy cabinet. The 34-year-old, being at the helm of the ODI team after retiring from Test cricket, has been a shadow of his glorious past.

After a 2-1 victory against West Indies at home in 2014, India, under Dhoni, have been thrashed and battered in the 50-over format of the game. Just before the 2015 World Cup, India went winless in the tri-series involving England and Australia. At the showdown event in Australia, India were knocked out in the semi-finals after losing to the hosts.

For more on Zimbabwe-India Series, click here

The Men in Blue hit rock bottom when they were humiliated in Bangladesh after young pacer Mustafizur Rahman left the full-strength unit jaded. Dhoni's problems aggravated when South Africa sealed a series win in India.

At a time, when Virat Kohli led the Test unit to back-to-back series wins against Sri Lanka and South Africa, Dhoni looked worn out and clueless with his ODI team, that was facing an array of defeats.

Neither did 2016 begin well for the skipper as India lost to Australia 1-4 despite Kohli and Rohit Sharma scoring heaps of runs.

From being one of the best in the business, Dhoni has gone on to become a lacklustre figure in the side. Here are few reasons why Dhoni is no more a good news for Indian cricket.

WHERE IS INDIA'S PROACTIVE CAPTAIN?

Once upon a time, Dhoni was celebrated for his bold moves. He surprised quite a few by entrusting a rookie pacer with the responsibility of bowling the last over of a World T20 final, a daring tactic that turned out to be a masterstroke.

However, in the recent past, Dhoni has borne the brunt for being reluctant to make changes. His persistence with under-performing players in the squad has hurt the team. Take the case of Shikhar Dhawan. The left-handed opener was given a long rope in the 2015-16 T20 season, despite seven single-digit scores in 16 games. However, he was dropped in the all-important World T20 semi-final clash against West Indies.

In the Zimbabwe ODIs, Dhoni was reluctant to test the bench strength in the last game even after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Youngsters Jayant Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat warmed the benches throughout the series after Dhoni refrained from making wholesale changes.

HANDLING THE FAST BOWLERS

More often than not, Dhoni, after defeats, has been taking cover in his bowlers' poor performances. He has been reluctant to go for pace and has often sidelined Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. His persistence with military medium pacers of the likes Mohit Sharma and Sreenath Aravind has been heavily criticised.

In Indian Premier League 2016, Dhoni snubbed Irfan Pathan for most part of the tournament and went ahead with Rajat Bhatia. Dhoni was forced to make a change after an array of losses but it was already late for Pune Supergiants, who finished seventh in their debut season.

On the other hand, Kohli has believed in his pacers a lot more which has worked wonders for the team. Umesh, Ishant Sharma brought out their best against Sri Lanka and South Africa and orchestrated India's winning campaigns.

Also, continuing to set fields for bad deliveries has shed light on the defensive mindset that has smitten Dhoni.

HORSES FOR COURSES?

Dhoni was under the scanner once again in Zimbabwe despite having a successful campaign. His decision to hold back Manish Pandey has drawn flak. Pandey, who scored a match-winning century in January against Australia in Sydney, faced only one ball over three games in his next international assignment in Zimbabwe. Dhoni defied logic by sending Ambati Rayudu at No. 3 in the second ODI when India were chasing a modest total of 126. If India are looking to fill the middle order spot left vacant by an out-of-form Suresh Raina, bringing in the young and proven Pandey would make more sense.

PERSONAL FORM

Dhoni's magical knocks that have done the job for India over the years are becoming a rarity. The wicketkeeper-batsman is not being able to finish games as good he used to. The fading ability was exposed during India's tour to Australia earlier this year. In the five one-day internationals, Dhoni who came in, after solid platforms set by the top-order batsmen, failed to provide the necessary acceleration in the end overs. With Dhoni, scoring at run-a-ball in the end overs, India fell decisively short of 20-30 runs in almost all the games.

Former cricketers, especially Sourav Ganguly, who seems to be optimistic about Dhoni's future with the team, has been disappointed with the skipper's reluctance to promote himself higher-up the order. Having retired from the longest format of the game, not giving enough time in the middle is certainly not a step in the right direction for Dhoni.

HIS REPORTED DIFFERENCES WITH ASHWIN

Dhoni seems to have turned his back on his go-to-man Ravichandran Ashwin. The Tamil Nadu off-spinner completed his quota of four overs only four times in nine matches across Asia Cup T20 and World T20 tournaments.

At RPS, Dhoni made it evident and deprived Ashwin of enough opportunities to stage fightbacks. Dhoni, who found a lot of success after throwing the new ball to Ashwin at Chennai Super Kings, rarely opened with the offie in season nine. Dhoni's under-utilisation of the off-spinner fuelled speculations that differences have cropped up between the two players.

ARROGANCE CREEPING IN?

Dhoni might be bored of answering the same set of questions again and again but with his fading abilities to motivate his team, critics have every right to query him about his shelf life.

Dhoni seems to be showing an indifferent attitude at press conferences when a probing question is being directed at him. The way Dhoni ridiculed an Australian journalist over retirement question after India's loss to West Indies in the World T20 2016 semi-final speaks volumes about a captain who doesn't want to take responsibility.

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