MUMBAI, (Reuters) – India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni may be showing the first signs of buckling under pressure but the wicketkeeper-batsman remains the best man for the job, according to former players.
Four short months ago, the 30-year old from the small eastern town of Ranchi was the toast of the nation after he led India to their second 50-over World Cup crown after a gap of 28 years.
However, a slump in batting form, untidy work behind the stumps and two humiliating defeats to start India’s four-test series in England have piled the pressure on a man renowned for his calm on-field demeanour.
Former India opener Anshuman Gaekwad said it was premature to write off the captain, who led India to the Twenty20 World Cup title in 2007 and had yet to lose a test series.
“If you just forget these two test matches… as a captain, as a batsman and as a wicketkeeper he has done marvellously well,” Gaekwad told Reuters by phone.
“It must be tremendous pressure for a captain, especially when he does not have his main strike bowler (Zaheer Khan) and batsman (Virender Sehwag),” said Gaekwad, who played 40 tests and coached India.
India were unable to call on opener Sehwag, coming back from a shoulder surgery, in both tests while Zaheer left the field on the first day of the series at Lord’s and was later ruled out of the entire tour with hamstring and ankle problems.
Sehwag’s regular opening partner, Gautam Gambhir, missed the second test with a bruised arm while off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and batsman Yuvraj Singh have also been ruled out for the remainder of the tour with injuries.
India’s number one test team ranking is also on the line after they fell 2-0 behind to England in a series the hosts need to win by a two-test margin to leapfrog the tourists.
Dhoni has averaged 12.25 in the two England tests and 19.40 in the three-match series in the Caribbean in June, and former India wicketkeeper Kiran More believes a lack of confidence was behind the dip in performance.
“I don’t think he has dropped any catches. He has fumbled a bit with the ball. He is not doing a great job definitely,” More told Reuters.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him… Not only from wicket-keeping but also from batting and captaincy. All the issues boil down and then you lose some confidence.”
More, however, was confident Dhoni would silence his critics.
“I don’t blame him. We are playing against the best team (England)… the commentators and crowd pressure is also there,” he said by phone.
“So overall, things are not going well for MS (Dhoni) but he is a strong character and he has always bounced back and hopefully he will fight back.”