In his captaincy career, MS Dhoni has made some very strange decisions. Sometimes he has been dismissed as an absolute novice because of them. However, since he is already statistically speaking the greatest Indian captain of all time, he can safely say that he is right and everyone else is wrong.
This time also eyebrows were raised when destiny’s child Rohit Sharma walked in to bat in the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy as an opener. Murli Vijay is a specialist opener and even the in-form batsman Dinesh Karthik has opened on many occasions.
While there are still people who question his place in the side, Rohit coming as an opener was quite unexpected. Of course you may remember that Rohit opened in an ODI with England in Mohali early this year and scored a fine 83. But that seemed a one-off event.
Either way Rohit finds himself in a totally new role after playing 90-odd matches. What has been the result? While it’s early days yet, India’s brand new opening pair of Rohit-Shikhar Dhawan has just delivered back to back hits.
In just two matches Rohit has hit two 50s, Dhawan has hit two 100s and the duo has given two century stands. In the third match, which was a low-scoring affair plagued by rain and Duckworth-Lewis, the duo still came out with an opening 50-run partnership.
At this rate both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will find themselves retired. That’s quite sad because while Sehwag is 34, Gambhir is just 31. But if a new talent comes, then it does replace the new. That’s a fact of the game.
For years people used to talk of no new talent to replace the old greats. But till you go ahead and bring in the new talent, you will never know what they are made of.
Earlier in the year in the Test squad against Australia, India found themselves without the services of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir. The result was that we won 4-0.
In fact, even Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were passive spectators then. For the ICC Champions Trophy, India found themselves without the services of Tendulkar, Gambhir and Sehwag. In the warm-up matches we first chased 334 quite comfortably with Sri Lanka.
In the second we recovered from 55-5 to post 308. Then Australia collapsed to an abysmal 65 thanks to Umesh Yadav’s 5-wicket haul. It was as if we were either playing Bangladesh or Yadav was a mean West Indies fast bowler of yore.
While we have done well in warm-up matches and collapsed thereafter in many tournaments in the past, this time it was totally different. We have won both our official matches convincingly without much fuss and have qualified for the semis without run rate being a factor at all.
The India-Pakistan match, which was a lame duck match, was also won with ease. Our performance so far has been like the Australian ODI team at its peak. The other heartening factor is that all this has come on the same England conditions that India got blasted in 2011.
In fact the India-South Africa match was surreal. While the Indian fielders were bursting with energy, the SA fielders looked downright sloppy and lethargic. Now that’s a very rare sight in international cricket indeed!
Special mention must be made to Sir Ravindra Jadeja. While no-one doubts his abilities on Indian soil any more, his performance in the British conditions is quite commendable. In the SA match, his 29-ball 47 proved to be crucial in the end, more so because India were faltering at that stage and could have posted much less.
In the match with West Indies, Jadeja’s 5-wicket haul put the brakes on the batting attack and he has proved that he is a force to reckon with outside the sub-continent too. Jadeja’s all-round skills are giving the team a solid balance in Tests at home and ODIs everywhere.
To think Jadeja is another “strange” choice that Dhoni has been pushing for ages now. Some people still think that Dhoni is lucky. Strange that his luck should have begun in 2007 and is still running in 2013!
Others think he comes out with strange decisions from time to time some which are downright silly.
Is it that or is he just a misunderstood genius?
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/