Australia thrashed India by 9 wickets in the one-off T20 in Melbourne, and the harsher of the critics will have already started baying. But critic or not, that match has surely taught everyone one thing: that there is a very fine line between bravado and foolishness. Just before the game, in a press conference, M S Dhoni has said that his players would be treating it as a practice match. Looking at the result, it seems a lot more practice is in store for the entire team.
The Indians have decided to choose youth over experience by leaving out Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly from the squad. Yuvraj Singh struggled in the two tests that he played, and Zaheer Khan and R P Singh are out due to injury. Also, the remainder of the team comprises of players who hardly have any experience playing in Australia, as was on show in the T20 match. Mahender Singh Dhoni has got his way as far as the team selection goes, and now it is up to the team to deliver.
What complicates the situation is that, by unceremoniously dumping the “seniors” from the squad, the inexperienced Dhoni seems to have shot himself in the foot. Whatever happens in the series, the selection panel cannot be blamed too much, as it was Dhoni’s vociferousness that got him his team. Even Anil Kumble didn’t seem too happy with what had transpired in the meeting when the team was decided. Dhoni has gone for broke; some may say he has decided to put his entire team through a test of fire.
Another factor that tilts the scales against Dhoni at the moment is that the third team in the tri series is Sri Lanka. The last time India played the same series, they were joined by Zimbabwe, which had meant that they were more or less assured of a spot in the best of three finals. This time, considering the force Australia are at home, and the force Sri Lanka have become under the astute captaincy of Jayawardene, things will not be so easy.
So in a nutshell, a road of thorns lies ahead for Dhoni. It may be asking too much from a young wicketkeeper to shoulder the responsibilities of the entire team. But considering the fact that there really is no one else in the team capable enough to do that, he might well have to go through with it. Maybe, just maybe, he might be sending out silent prayers to the Almighty, hoping that Yuvraj Singh hits a purple patch, or virtually each and every one of his decisions go fully according to plan. Things have gone according to his caprices till date anyway.
If the Indians manage to bag the series, or even put up a good enough fight, then the entire country will laud Mahender Singh Dhoni’s attitude, courage, premonition, call it what you may. But a performance along the lines of what was on view this Friday, and he would experience the “hero to zero” free-fall first hand. The bells have not yet begun to toll for the seniors in the Indian side, who will be watching the matches live from the comforts of their homes.