Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The end of MSD is near- An early exit from this year's IPL is just the start of the fall..

The Indian Premier League is in it's 9th season now. Over the last years MS Dhoni has been the icon for the very popular franchise Chennai Super Kings having led them  to two title wins and taking them to the finals on two other occasions

 Statistically speaking he is the most successful captain in the history of the IPL and has been able to guide Chennai Super Kings to a good amount of success in the eight years he was with them.

Now, since Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals have been banned from the IPL for two years with their involvement in the match fixing scandal , MSD was bought by new franchisee Rising Pune SuperGiants.

At the outset , the Pune team looked good on paper having most bases covered giving an impression that the team would perform better than how they have fared so far. So what’s wrong with MS Dhoni in this year’s IPL ? Why has captain cool MSD stumbled this badly in this IPL ? Here’s what I think about this:

1. Injuries to star studded players impacting team performance: It’s always tough when the core of you team is ruled out of the IPL due to injury. It started with Faf Du Plesis then went on to Kevin Pitersen followed by Mitchell Marsh  and finally Steven Smith. It’s hard when you loose four  of your marquee players to injury.

This has definitely impacted the team combination for RPS as they need to find replacements for these  four biggies and to be fair their cupboard is pretty bear with regards to their Indian batting talent barring Ajinkya Rahane.

And by the time the replacements George Bailey and Usman Khawaja came into the squad it was almost too little too late. As they would be a bit rusty and it's asking  too much from them to come and deliver straightaway.

On this issue, I feel that the think tank of the Rising Pune SuperGiants( mostly  who were with CSK earlier) should have used their brains and to fill the empty spot  created by the injury to Mitchell Marsh they could have picked either Darren Sammy, Kevin O Brien or Jimmy Neesham as they went unsold in the auction. But surprisingly that spot is yet to be filled by anybody.

I feel having led West Indies in rather turbulent times to a World Cup title recently, I would have definitely bought in Sammy into my team as Marsh's replacement. Here's a glimpse of what Darren Sammy is capable of:

2.  MS Dhoni’s lack of trust in his own players:  When you have an experienced player who has done well in the domestic circuit prior to this IPL in Irfan Pathan why play him for only one game? What explains that baffling decision? And to add to it in the game he played in he was given one over to bowl. Now what can explain such dastardly treatment given to a player who could have filled up the hole left because of Mitchell Marsh’s injury pretty well.

 Also over the past few months it’s quite baffling to see how shabbily MS Dhoni has used R Ashwin. In this IPL when by far he is the best bowler he has got in his team , MS Dhoni has used R Ashwin very sparingly. In some games he has been used for just one over. What is the reason  for   this captain cool ?

Agreed, he might have not performed that well at the start of the IPL, but when Dhoni has only few bowlers capable of winning games for you why   doesn't he   trust him and give him his full quota of overs?  This has been seen even for India recently. Not sure what's wrong between these two.

When you can bowl 4 overs of shabby medium pace from Thissara Parera and Rajat Bhatia consistently and pick RP Singh and  give him his full quota of overs why then can't you give Ashwin his due Mr Dhoni?

If MSD forgot what Ashwin is capable of here's a glimpse of Ashwin bowling really well under his captaincy for Chennai Super Kings:

3. MS Dhoni the finisher is finished:  It comes as no surprise for me when I see the dipping numbers of MS Dhoni as the batsman in recent times. He is aging and sadly for his fans he is aging rather badly. There was a time for Chennai Super Kings when the team and the fans could believe that when MS Dhoni walked out to bat while chasing he could finish the game.

 Well especially in this edition of the IPL and the tournaments leading upto this year's IPL for a period of 18 months or so,  when Dhoni comes out to bat because of his inability to hit the big shots and clear the boundaries, he has become a liability in the side.

With players getting injured he had to step up and perform what with his immense amount of experience but for the Pune franchise fans sadly that hasn't happened and that’s why they are languishing in the bottom half of the points table.

He could hide behind the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Suresh Raina or a Ravindra Jadeja in earlier editions of the IPL but sadly in this Pune team he needed to perform and he has failed to do so right through the tournament ( because of lack of experienced batsmen in the middle order for Pune).

 When his team are struggling in the beginning of an innings its a tradition for MSD to come out lower down the order and still orchestrate wins for Chennai but sadly for Pune  he is like a trapped animal where his flaws can'not be hidden and has got exposed.

 A combination of the three points I mentioned and also taking into account the fact that it’s a new franchise he is part of and adjusting to that can take time( but aren't Gujarat Lions doing well?) and the fact that the  smart tactician MS Dhoni has been lauded too many times for in the past  , he has waned out and has completely run  out of ideas and innovative thinking which were meant to be his strengths as a captain.

If you are a MS Dhoni fan this IPL has not been kind to you but the fact of the matter is the writing was on the wall. It was time that this happened- first time in his career as captain of an IPL franchise MS Dhoni’s team is the first team to get eliminated from the tournament.

It is at times of adversity that a true leader is tested. Dhoni after having lost 14 away test times decided to quit as test captain in the middle of a series in Australia. An act of sheer cowardise from a rather overrated captain to be brutally frank.

For people who are fans of MS Dhoni the player and captain , you can shy away and shrug off what's written in this blog post by calling it immature or unwanted banter  but the fact of the matter is I have given a fair and truthful assessment of events which have transpired in the recent past. He has got very little to offer as a captain off late- the early exit from this year's IPL is a classic example of that.

With the rising popularity of Virat Kohli , I won't be surprised if Dhoni looses his post as the ODI and T20 captain  of the Indian team to Kohli in the near future and looking ahead I don't think Dhoni will be physically and mentally capable of playing till the next 50 over world cup in 2019 or the next World T20 in 2020.

MSD' s end is nearing. He has achieved a lot, he is loved by many people so to do justice to their love and admiration for him MSD must relinquish the captaincy job for India and allow the team to be groomed for the next World Cups.


  1. Raghav, Good blog. You are definitely more adept to comment on cricket and the players, for, you have been following the sport much longer than I have. To begin with let me thank you for throwing the spark of interest in me to learn about this sport. That said, in the few months I have followed this sport I find MS Dhoni to be a great captain / leader for this team. So with due respect to your views, I would like to disagree on some of your conclusions.
    #1: These are unforeseeable circumstances. While I agree that there were better options to choose from, for the replacements, the team chose the not-so-good ones. However, attributing the entire decision and the repercussions to the captain alone, while you have the manager, the team owner and many more involved in it, is not quite acceptable. It is a blatant truth that IPL is more of an entertainment than a sport. Having said that, politics behind screens is inevitable. If this is a reason to rule out Dhoni, I would challenge that.
    #2: You are right in saying that Dhoni has used R.Ashwin and I.Pathan very sparingly in the last couple years. Of the 33 T20 innings Ashwin has bowled during the last 12 months, he has completed four overs on only 20 occasions. While your facts are right, I would like to challenge your inference that Dhoni does not trust his players. Recall the first few overs against Bangladesh in T20 World Cup 2016. The way Dhoni brought Bumrah out of his sloppiness after missing a catch and bowling a reckless over was stunning and a portrayal of excellent leadership. His trust in Pandya made him give the ball to him the last over under high pressure, during the same match. These are classic examples of his trust in his players that happened not so long ago. But going back to his reluctance to use Ashwin could be attributed to a gazillion things. Some of which includes the pitch, the dew etc., in addition to the fact that Ashwin had difficulties performing in test cricket against South Africa end of 2013. I am not saying he is a bad player, but I am just saying there are more reasons to not utilizing a player than just his performance which is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath that could be behavioral issues, fitness, ability to get along with the team etc.
    #3: About his batting numbers dropping off late, I again agree that your stats are right. But to expect a player to play like a machine, tournament after tournament, with the same intensity is to expect them to make earth revolve mars instead of sun. I am not defending his lower batting numbers but just saying every player has his ups and downs and to be so critical of it despite the matches he has won for us is not so acceptable. Leadership entails much more than actually scoring runs or taking wickets. Getting the team together to play a match and making judgment calls under pressure and owning the failures of the judgments and attributing the success to the team are important traits of Dhoni that is holding the team together.
    I think one of the most difficult things a leader can do, is stay calm under pressure. Ordinary men like us get annoyed and snap under the slightest pressure. This man has been able to do it, not once but for many years at a stretch. It comes with confidence, maturity and level headedness. To mock at this quality and the title it has got him as “the cool captain” is like belittling a very rare and precious species.
    And finally to pave way for the youngsters to lead. Virat Kohli is no doubt a great player but I seriously question his ability to lead. Even Sachin, one of the greatest cricketers of all times failed terribly as a captain. Captains are a different breed and it needs maturity. From the very little I have seen of Virat I seriously doubt his possession of this quality. But that’s the “judgmental moron” inside me talking. Nevertheless, great article on your points of view and thanks for bringing out the Dhoni fan in me! :)

    1. With regards to the three points, I will respond to them:

      1. Agreed selection of new players into the squad when you have few players injured is not only the captain's call. And in my defense I haven't blamed Dhoni for this aspect. All I aid he is a important part of the think-tank of the RPS team and hence if he wants a good all-rounder to replace Mitchell Marsh he can present a strong case in favor of a player and he might get that player in the squad as the coach Stephen Fleming and him go a long way back so there's a mutual trust between them.

      2. Good point made. The way he bowled Bumrah in the game against Bangladesh or how he threw the ball to the rookie Pandya in the last over were brave moves where he succeded.

      it is indeed shocking to see R Ashwin bowl his full quota of 4 overs only 20 times in his last 33 T20 innings. As he is a vastly improved bowler and easily among the best spinners in the world currently. There is something seriously wrong between these two.

      But as viewers , we don't bother too much if there is an ego clash etc between the two. What we see is someone like RP Singh or Murugan Ashwin bowl their full quota and R Ashwin given the ball only in the 18th over in some games. Dhoni must be held accountable and be made answerable for his shabby treatment of a bowler who as I wrote in my blog post is capable of winning games for him.

      Irfan Pathan played 98 IPL games before joining CSK last year. He didn'nt play a single game last year. he might have been injured last year for few games so probably you can pardon Dhoni by saying how can you pick an injured player? But the fact Pathan was injured for 4 games in IPL 2015 and post that Dhoni ignored him.

      This year he had got the highest wickets in the Syed Musthaq Ali trophy by grabbing 17 wickets before being picked by the Pune team. What then can explain his move to play him only for one game and even in that bowl him for one over?

      Obviously he doesn't trust or rate somebody and once that happens no matter how good or bad you are you end up being snubbed( in R Ashwin's case) or being completly ignored( In the case of Irfan Pathan).

      3. I can say that looking at his numbers in the past 18 months Dhoni is no longer the force he was earlier. Granted with age and the workload the modern day players have its hard to maintain consistency and me being overly critical might not be completly justified.

      But looking at the upcoming world cups and the fact that in the short tenure as captain for India Virat has shown good captaincy and leadership skills and I don't see any reason why he should not lead India in all formats of the game.

      For his achievements as I said in the blog post, MSD should step aside at his own will and without the burden of captaincy on his shoulders probably his fans including you can get to see him play for a longer time maybe even till the ICC World Cup 2019 in England.

  2. The language that you've used is too strong. For a guy who has not even played for your school team, your mockery of a national hero is questionable. But I didn't expect any better from you for you have the utmost disrespect for MSD.

    Don't reduce the standard of your blog by being so critical and rude. No body wants to read about something bad about another person. If you have any significant solutions share it. There are many good things to write about.