The late Raj Singh Dungarpur was accused of destroying the Indian team of the 1980s in his quest to build the “team of the '90s”.
The team of the 1980s had been India’s most successful one. They had won the 1983 World Cup in England, the 1984 Asia Cup in Sharjah and the Benson and Hedges World Series of Cricket Championship in Australia in 1985 besides winning the Test series in England 2-0 in 1986.
But Dungarpur, who wore many hats, including that of the chairman of the selection committee, went about his agenda premeditatedly to the extent that ace all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath called the selectors “a bunch of jokers” after being dumped.
The Indian team was never the same again and struggled through most of the 1990s before the advent of a number of talented youngsters brought it back to the fore around the late 1990s. But the pain of the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s was self-inflicted and unsatisfactorily justified as an inevitable exercise towards “building the team of 1990s”.
Hence any contention that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was asked to quit as the Indian captain in limited-overs to build a team for the 2019 World Cup must be met with a certain amount of trepidation.
A leading daily of the country reported that Dhoni did not voluntarily step down but was instead asked to go by the chairman of the selection committee, MSK Prasad.
It reported that the move to get rid of Dhoni was planned in September 2016 when the new five-man selection committee took charge. They had apparently "brainstormed over a roadmap for Indian cricket, with the focus firmly on 2019 World Cup" and "it was explained to Dhoni – who would be almost 39 when the 50-over World Cup is held – why Kohli should take over".
Dhoni was supposedly “nudged” by Prasad into announcing his resignation as captain when the two met again at Nagpur during the Ranji Trophy semifinal. Dhoni was around as the mentor of the Jharkand team while Prasad played out his role as chairman of the selection committee.
What makes this ‘nudging’ a bit difficult to understand is the fact that some of the cricketers chosen for the ODI and T20 series against England later this month would be really old to serve in their roles in 2019. Ashish Nehra, for instance, would be over 40 years of age in 2019. It is certainly not the sort of age for a modern international fast bowler to be peddling his wares. Yuvraj Singh, chosen as an aggressive batsman who could put the bowling to sword, too would be close to 40 – not an age when he could be expected to throw himself around the field, or run those twos and threes between the wickets aggressively. Then there’s the matter of hand-eye coordination which will be called upon to clobber the fastest and best of bowlers.
This is not to deride these cricketers but just to show that if the selectors had the 'farsightedness' to do away with India’s most successful captain well before his time they certainly would have shown similar consistency in their choice of players for the home series against England. That they did not tells its own story.
Additionally, the 2019 World Cup in England is to be held in June-July, a good two-and-a-half years away. In fact, if the September 2016 ‘brainstorming’ as stated by the newspaper is taken as the rolling out of 'Plan Dhoni-Quit' then the selectors’ scheme would have factored in three years of planning!
Forget for a moment that these selectors may not be around even three months hence, given the sweeping changes demanded by the Lodha reforms. There are numerous matches, series and tournaments to be played between now and the 2019 World Cup before identifying either a captain or his squad for the event. In reality a substantially new team could spring up by then.
Thus the selectors asking Dhoni in September 2016 to step down so that they could build a team around a new captain for June 2019 makes little sense.
Pointedly, Dhoni has been India’s most successful captain ever. He piloted the team to the World T20 title in 2007, World Cup title in 2011 and Champions Trophy title in 2013. This is besides taking the team to the number one position in Tests and retaining the position for a considerably period of time.
He commanded such fierce loyalty in his team members that Robin Uthappa, member of the 2007 World T20 winning team, once famously said that he would stand in front of a speeding truck if so demanded by Dhoni!
The skipper won matches with his bat, and changed the course of some with brilliant stumpings and smart run outs. But more than that, he made players from small towns believe in themselves and deliver big time on the international stage.
He was the original 'Captain Cool', unruffled by circumstances and always giving a sense of being in control of the match. In short, Dhoni was larger than all the five selectors put together.
After all, Prasad, Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Jatin Paranjpe and Devang Gandhi, have played a mere 13 Tests between them; Khoda and Paranjpe not even one. Thus to expect this motley bunch to ask India’s finest ever captain to take a walk is a bit incredulous. Rather, Dhoni must be marching to the beat of his own drum, surely.
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2017 16:46:54 IST