The 'dump them into the Pacific' bomb dropped by the angry old man of Indian cricket, Bishen Singh Bedi, after a string of dismal shows by the team during the 1991 Australian tour may be the craziest of the criticisms raised against the cricketers, but in the context of the back-to-back defeats suffered by the current crop in England it may not be entirely unjustified to suggest that the river Thames when it's at its treacherous worst, as it may be now after the Hurricane Bertha strike, could be as good as the Pacific if we are serious about options and action.
While it's natural for both mere mortals and the guys who donned the Indian cap in the past and grew grumpy old to think they are wiser to get upset and feel angry over the abject surrender and say something outrageous and impossible to give vent to their disgust, the crazy things some of them come up with against M.S. Dhoni sound funny, ridiculous and totally rubbish. If we go by the common perception that a captain is as good as his team, Dhoni should have been given a louder, more honest round of clap than he got from some quarters after the Lord's triumph. There were people who chose to raise toxic noise over his perceived lack of skills.
If that was the case when the team won, it's a fabulous opportunity to up the ante when the team lost.
He doesn't crouch enough, hands are at the hips, keeps his legs wide apart…All this, simply put, means he's not quick to react to the chances — left, right or centre.
That's what Dhoni the wicketkeeper for the critics. Obnoxious, timid, defensive, past shelf-life, weird field placements, absurd bowling changes…that's about Dhoni the captain.
And Dhoni the batsman? Not for the Tests! That's even when he had to come in at the sixth over and stay right up there to score a patient 71 that gave a glimmer of something for the bowlers.
Yes, he didn't go for the nick that flew past his right and fell short of first slip. Yes, he might have been defensive when he went into the third Test with an extra batsman. Yes, his field placements at times may have been weird. And yes, these are observations made from the outside and, yes, it's always easier to be wise after the event. If the choices he made worked, as it happened in the Lord's Test, it would have been a different story, and he drew flak only because nothing went right for the team, for which he couldn't be held entirely and singularly responsible.
Listen to Ishant Sharma who bounced out England at Lord's. It was at the insistence of Dhoni, despite the batsmen hitting his short of a length deliveries to the boundary, that Ishant continued to bowl bouncers which ultimately helped India script history. If the strategy failed, Dhoni would have been the foolish commander who pushed his reluctant soldier equipped with damp squibs into the firing line of an army of guys whose fingers are at the trigger of the trusted AK-47s.
Dhoni is a part of the problem, but not the whole problem. The whole, sordid problem that has now put India on the verge of another series defeat, barring a miracle that should be better and credulous than the famous Indian rope trick, is the total lack of confidence suffered by the Indian top order. The tail wagged at Trent Bridge and Lord's in back-to-back matches. The tail doesn't rise up all the time.
The responsibility of the lower order is to better the work done by the openers and the batsmen coming in at from No.3 to 5. They don't always bat for the top order. That simply is not the job profile of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Sammy or R. Ashiwn. And the role of Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni is to accelerate scoring, and that's a job they do not always with exquisite technique — a bit of carefree flamboyance, ugly heaves and awkward pokes is welcome.
No one really dumped them into the Pacific in the early 90s. If we have to dump any now, why not a bunch of experts who want us to believe that what they speak is gospel?
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman