Samir Chopra makes a compelling case against Dhoni’s late declaration in the third Test against New Zealand:
Why did Dhoni need 600 plus runs on the board? To set attacking fields? Why were 500 runs not enough? Because New Zealand had scored 600 runs in the first innings of the last Test? And if he wanted to set attacking fields then why didn’t he set them? I didn’t see fields that were consistently the hyper-aggressive fields that a captain with 600 runs on the board could set…If the idea was to get 600 runs on the board and go on all-out attack, then why was the Indian team’s demeanour in the post-tea session on the fourth day that of giggling schoolboys? […]
Dhoni wanted to save the match first. A win was a bonus. He didn’t get it and it didn’t matter to him. A series win was more important. Fair enough. Those are his objectives. But if he is going to be a truly different Indian Test captain, he will need to snap out of a conservative mind-set that has been characteristic of most that have preceded him. And part of the way to do it is to back yourself and your team to win in lots of different settings.
I had argued that 600 versus 500 would have allowed for a more attacking mindset, but I see now that it also could works the other way. That is, because India knew they couldn’t lose, they may not have pushed hard enough for a victory, and instead became complacent.
Chopra and I disagree somewhat over how much this matters. I think he wants some Austraian ruthlessness, where every match played should be a match won. As I wrote before, I’m ambivalent: while I want India to top the ranking tables, I don’t want them to become Australian in the process either.