Admitting one’s mistake is the first step towards rectifying it. But if one does not admit the errors and attempts to gloss over a grim situation then it is on the cards that the mistakes will be repeated.
By all accounts the Indian team performed poorly in both South Africa and New Zealand. This is driven home by the results. A 4-0 loss in the ODIs in South Africa followed by a 0-1 defeat in the Test series. Then in New Zealand it is very much a repeat – a 4-0 loss in the ODIs and a 0-1 defeat in the Test series.
If going down in South Africa was bad enough the double setback in New Zealand was worse because it was totally unexpected. South Africa at least are right up there in the rankings in both Tests and ODIs. But New Zealand are languishing in the seventh slot in both Tests and ODIs as compared to India’s No 2 ranking.
Even after taking into account India’s abysmal away record it is difficult to accept the result in New Zealand given the fact that they are not a great batting or bowling side. In a way this of course puts the Indian batting and bowling in proper perspective – not to mention the fielding and catching.
One can understand the captain not wanting to lambast his players in public. Granted a leader has to be diplomatic but he can still put his point across.
After the double disaster in both South Africa and New Zealand it is clear that the Indians have been outplayed. Not winning a single match out of 14 – even if one ODI ended in a tie and another was washed out – and losing ten is the kind of disastrous result for which there can be no excuse.
Under the circumstances it is difficult to agree with some of MS Dhoni’s observations at the end of the Wellington Test. "I am someone who speaks more about the process rather than thinking just about the results’’ was one little gem that caught my eye.
The development process is fine but when the results are not in keeping with the process then something is wrong somewhere. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to work out that a system or a strategy that is producing a zero success rate needs to be changed.
But when the captain indulges in blase statements like "there is plenty of improvement’’ and refuses to acknowledge that things are bad then one can safely say that the losing trend will continue. The bottom line is the results and it is time Dhoni accepts that defending a team that has flopped time and again makes for a hollow argument.
Dhoni wasn’t always like this. He exuded confidence at press conferences and frequently had the reporters eating out of his hand. He handled even difficult questions with aplomb while ducking under the really awkward ones. The succession of defeats however has changed his demeanour.
He is more edgy these days, gives monotonous or ineffectual answers and seems lost in thought. A couple of years ago he would not have come up with this reaction after the Wellington Test. ``What is important is to see whether we have improved and changed the way we have played our cricket.
If we compare this to the South Africa series there are plenty of positives.’’ Given the fact that New Zealand do not enjoy the exalted status of South Africa if anything the performance signaled a nosedive.
Dhoni was left holding the crumbs when talking about the few things that went right and even here he could not find the right words. He spoke of the "vast’’ improvement of the openers in "difficult’’ conditions even though only Shikhar Dhawan succeeded and Murali Vijay failed.
And in any case at the international level openers are expected to tackle seam and swing bowling. He heaped praise on Zaheer Khan hailing his bowling as ``leaps and bounds of improvement’’ since the first Test in South Africa. This was out of place for a bowler who took nine wickets at 42.44 apiece in the two Tests.
Most unacceptable was the manner in which he lauded the bowlers after the Wellington Test. "I think it was fantastic to see the way our bowlers bowled’’ and this even given Dhoni’s recent platitudes took some believing.
This kind of praise for bowlers who allowed New Zealand to recover from 94 for five to 680 for eight declared was totally uncalled for.
Dhoni has achieved a lot as captain but his most notable triumphs have come in limited over cricket – the T-20 World Cup, the fifty-50 World Cup, the CB series in Australia, the Champions trophy.
In Tests the one notable feather in his cap is that India reached the No 1 ranking when he was captain – even if the reign was a brief period. Maybe the time has come to relieve him of some the burden he has been carrying for so long. Many other countries have different captains for the various formats.
Perhaps India should follow suit. In the meantime the knives are out with most of his former colleagues calling for him to be sacked. We will soon know whether the selectors will join the chorus.