Over and out: Dhoni’s penalty reflects India’s headspace

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January 24, 2012 by dixwah

Australia v India – 4th Test, Adelaide Oval

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Cricket is very much a mental game. One lapse in concentration, one poor decision, and the game can swing. But despite the fragility between their batsmen’s ears, there’s nothing more that signals India’s mental weakness than captain MS Dhoni’s suspension form the Adelaide Test for repeated slow over rates.

It’s a good rule. The expectations are loud and clear. Teams are expected to bowl 15 overs an hour, 30 minutes of overtime is strung on to the end of the day as leeway, and the man who flips the coin is responsible for making sure this stuff happens. If it doesn’t he gets fined. If it doesn’t again within 12 months, like Dhoni here, he is suspended.

With his batsmen in such ordinary touch, maybe Dhoni and his teammates were just trying their hardest to get the match to a fifth (or even fourth) day.

Dhoni can pack his bags and prepare for hit and giggle

But nothing highlights the lack of drive, initiative, spirit and fight from India more than the sluggishness between overs. Pushing through between overs builds pressure, and Dhoni has been hung out to dry by a team of weak pretenders.

He’s not a great captain. I’ve previously criciticsed his retreating tactics and lack of control over the big four. But I share the blame here, even extend it to the batting ‘superstars’ who have compounded their lack of runs with a lack of leadership here.

Dravid, Tendulkar and Sehwag have all captained India in Test cricket, know the rules and as professionals, with other senior players like Khan the cat and Very Very Sluggish, should have shown leadership in the field to prevent Dhoni’s demise.

Out-of-form opener Gautam Gambhir’s comments leading into the fourth Test typified his team’s attitude. Rather than focusing on redemption in Adelaide, Gambhir threw out excuses, going for the ‘wait until you play us at home on our decks’ schoolboy stuff that rather than deflecting India’s batting hardhips, demonstrated their mental weakness.

Weak: India needs runs, not excuses Gautam

International cricket is, by definition, international. Man up and cope with different crowds (Kohli, Sharma) and different conditions (batsmen). It’s cold in England, it’s hot in the sub-continent, there are sheep in New Zealand.

I hope India prove me wrong, if not in performance, in effort at Adelaide. At present I think their minds, if they ever arrived, are already on a plane home.

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