Opinion: MSD can't win without proper bowlers

Blog Opinion

Although there are short comings in Dhoni's and Duncan Fletcher's tactics, the blame for the away record does not rest solely at the door of the skipper. The biggest problem India have is their bowling.

MS Dhoni has run out of things to win. World Cup, World T20, Test mace, IPL, Champions Trophy, Champions League T20. He is the richest cricketer in the world. He is the figure head of the all powerful Indian cricket powerhouse.

He is a vice president of N Srinivasan's India Cements company. He has captained India to more wins than anyone else, ever. He is currently the fourth most successful wicket keeper in terms of runs scored in Test history.

Despite this success, for the second time in three years there are calls for him to be removed from the captaincy. The first came after the twin 4-0 losses in England and Australia. After the euphoria of winning a home World Cup India were jaded, tired and by the look of things, uninterested.

The selectors wanted him gone. The former India selector Mohinder Amarnath has been quoted as saying that the sacking of Dhoni following the disasters in England and Australia was blocked.

Talking to Times Now, Amarnath spoke of firing Dhoni and said "It's an internal thing. I don't want to name anybody, it was an internal thing. But there was a discussion, people were agreeing to do that, but for some reason it didn't happen."

From the outside it seemed that the close relationship that Dhoni has with the highest echelons of the BCCI hierarchy saved him from being fired. Now the question is whether those same connections will quash any suggestion of him going this time.

The issue is away form, again. India haven't won a Test away from home in 14 games. In that time they have played the West Indies, England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. It has been nearly 1000 days since they won a game away from India. Fans are frustrated, understandably.

The issue Dhoni has in away Tests is that his tactics don't adjust with the conditions. Dhoni is a big fan of 'bowling dry'. He wants to stop the flow of runs, sit back and wait for the batsman to do something stupid or the pitch to help him out.

That works well on the slow, low pitches of India and in limited overs games. In Tests outside India you need to attack. Boundary riders aren't going to take you 20 wickets, and Dhoni loves a man fielding on the boundary, especially if the ball has just gone to that part of the ground.

Although there are short comings in Dhoni's and Duncan Fletcher's tactics, the blame for the away record does not rest solely at the door of the skipper. The biggest problem India have is their bowling.

On pitches that help seamers the Indian pacers don't help themselves. Currently the India selectors consider Ravi Jadeja as their best spinner. While his left arm spin is serviceable, he is never going to run through sides, especially outside of Asia.

Since the England tour in July 2011 India have conceded over 500 runs in an innings eight times in 12 away matches. In that same period only Praveen Kumar averages under 30 with the ball in away Tests, and he hasn't played since August 2011 when injury saw him left out for the last Test of the England tour.

While Dhoni has such a paucity of bowling resources even revolutionary tactics would be like Captain Smith of the Titanic demanding the lifeboats getting a fresh coat of paint before the women and children got on board.

Dhoni has never been a tactician. He is a leader of men, and this India side needs to be well led. There is a new look top order that needs to have a strong leader to guide them.

He gives his side belief. Even after all these poor results Dhoni found a way to spin it as an improvement. As much as it doesn't make a huge amount of sense, you get the impression that Dhoni actually believes it.

So Dhoni should stay. Firstly because there isn't really an alternative. There is talk of giving the captaincy to the volatile Virat Kohli, but that would be like handing over the keys to a sweet shop to a hyperactive kid. Captaincy is so often about staying calm, that is not something Kohli is wont to do.

Secondly, although India's away record is poor, no one wins away from home these days. Shorter tours, pitches that are so friendly to home attacks they blow them kisses, the non stop trudge of international cricket.

Teams struggle to win away from home, unless you have a Mitchell Johnson, and India most definitely do not. India suffer the most from all of these things, they are on the road all the time and rarely play a significant number of warm up games.

India aren't winning away from home because they do not have the tools to do so. While watching Dhoni push a man out to deep backward point after a poor ball was hit for four is frustrating, he remains India's best option.

Until the selectors find him some better bowlers or he gets more warm up matches he is in for some more calls for his head.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

Latest