“I was feeling insecure you might not love me anymore,” said John Lennon.
Maybe that’s one of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s problems. The last 15 months have not been good to him. He has gone from being the toast of the nation to toast. He must miss all the love the nation showered on him when India won the mace and World Cup.
Well, of course, he doesn’t show it. He is after all Mr. Cool. This might explain in part his constant clamour for turning pitches. That and the fact that Dhoni believes it’s his birthright to make demands at home. Oddly enough, the captain of the home side is being made to plead like Oliver Twist.
One of Dhoni’s jobs is to ensure his side is given the best chance of winning. India’s best chance of coming out on top is on pitches where the ball spins like a top. Indians definitely want a cricket team that wins more than it loses. So why are Indians in particular giving Dhoni such a hard time about his calls for turning tracks? Are we so embarrassed to ask for what we are entitled to? Yes, we are.
This is an old Indian problem. If China were a cricket power, they’d lay out ‘kung-fu’ pitches to bamboozle touring sides. Or whatever it is that’ll give them the upper hand. The Chinese are desperate to win. They don’t care what the West thinks of them. Indians, on the other hand, have a Queen-sized colonial hangover about such things. When it comes to such things we crave the approval of the West. Or at least the majority of the English press does.
We lack the confidence to make not just the most but the utmost of home conditions. We think it’s morally wrong to take full advantage of touring sides. Of course we have no qualms about exploiting our own kind. When it comes to killer instinct, we’d rather bring it into play only when we are up against Indians. We think if we prepare square turners with bounce and bite for England and Australia, they will blow us away with green-tops when we tour their country.
Fact is, no matter what we do, they’ll still give us green-tops. Did you see the wicket the Indians were presented with at Perth early this year? I didn’t. I only saw grass. No matter how hospitable we are we’re certainly not going to get wickets that help us when we go abroad. The solution to that problem lies elsewhere. It does not lie in downplaying our home advantage.
“In the long run we’re all dead,” said John Maynard Keynes.
If you know Dhoni, you probably know that he is a man who lives in the present. He doesn’t worry about the distant future. What he wants is to win the now. Most Indians are not like that. Even after the demise of the 5-year plans, we continue to be cautious planners at heart. We’re always worrying about what lies in store for us tomorrow. This prevents us from concentrating fully on taking charge of the present. Dhoni is not like that.
This is the reason he is such a cool customer and unlike most of the men who have led the Indian team in the past. India’s next tour is only late next year. Emphatic wins before that can only help Indian cricket recover from the crisis of confidence it is going through. The most probable way to achieve such a result is lay out a venomous pitches for visiting sides.
Yes, the Indians were beaten soundly in Mumbai. But that doesn’t mean the plan of action should be abandoned. It’s a sound one. It needs to be persisted with. Jettisoning it after one setback is ridiculous. It betrays a shocking lack of self-confidence. Besides, why should an 83-year-old curator be allowed to tell the captain of the Indian cricket to take a hike? This, rather than what Dhoni is asking for, is way out of line. And ridiculous. For all you know, Mr. Prabir Mukherjee thinks Sourav Ganguly should still be the captain of the Indian cricket team.
The writer tweets @Armchairexpert. You can follow him if you’re into that sort of thing.