Sidharth Monga has an incredibly good essay on the state of the Indian team. Key paragraph:
With the team in flux, India need a more assertive and proactive Dhoni, both on and off the field. A Dhoni prepared to make the tough calls, eager to shape his own team, more Imran Khan than Viv Richards. A captain who demands certain standards of the team, one who refuses to carry non-performers. A captain prepared to take on some pressure by asking for the team he wants, and not sulk later. If he can win a match in three days and still criticise the groundsman for not giving his side enough home advantage, surely he can be forceful in selection matters too? He even has a fresh set of selectors, a clean slate if you will, to work with.
I think Dhoni’s strategy has been, as Monga suggests, to stand back, stay cool and let the brilliance he knows his team is capable of to show. When the brilliance does not show — as, with India’s case, is about every other game — then he does not have much to offer. Some captains know how to do much with little; Dhoni can only do more with more.
That said, Monga’s article suffers from a lack of concrete suggestions. I suppose Dhoni could make more of a stink, but it’s never clear in India how much you can win by fighting the system. Monga’s scenario seems to work like this: New selection panel meets. They talk to Dhoni, who raises a fuss about “non-performers” and asks for particular needs (new pace attack, new openers). Selectors respond. Isn’t it entirely plausible, however, that the following unfolds: New selection panel meets. Dhoni tells them what they need. Selection panel leaks. Rumors of team infighting emerge. Sehwag, one of those called “non-performers,” throws a fit. When hearing that he has been dropped, fans go crazy and Cricinfo runs a story headlined: “Was India right to drop Sehwag?” Already dealing with enough pressure, Dhoni sinks and sulks.
The deeper problem, of course, is the lack of talent. I’m not so worried about the batting because we do have some options there. But the bowling…once Zaheer goes, well…perish the thought.
The problem is not lack of talent, in my view. There is plenty of talent waiting to be found. The issue is gross commercialization. Non performers with brands supporting them means selection is not longer a simple issue. Nike, Coke, Sahara, Sony, etc have stakes in selecting the India team. Of course not overtly but their influence is in billions of dollars over the team.
There is no will among the cricket apparatus of India, including the players to fix anything because nothing is broken as long as the profits pour in.
India no longer hurts with defeat their players turn into line managers who rationalize why things are not as bad as they seem.
India will be the Chicago Cubs of cricket. Winning is on no ones mind why should it when losing still brings in the dollars.
First let the team show they want to win again. Not take an ostrich like approach to IPL. Then I think a proper discussion of what Dhoni should do could be had.
A clean slate can only be had after Sachin decides to quit because he has now come to epitomize selfishness packaged as extreme humility