Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Overcooked captain Dhoni needs a break

KOCHI: MS Dhoni is quite adept at camouflaging many things on a cricket field. He keeps strategies close to his chest and his emotions (if he has any) are always under check. But the biggest thing that the Indian skipper has hidden from the public eye is his tired and worn out body.

206, that's the mind boggling number of matches that the Indian captain has played in since he led his team to World Cup glory in 2011. He has played 34 Tests, 61 ODIs and 24 T20 internationals during the period and if you add the 87 matches he has played for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in both IPL and Champions League T20 (CLT20) in the last three years, then you are talking about one of the most travelled personalities in international cricket these days.

With the additional responsibility of captaining and wicket-keeping whichever side he represents, one can safely assume that his body and mind has taken quite a battering.

While Dhoni opted out of the ODI series against Bangladesh in June last year, he has since then led the Indian team during a gruelling three-month tour of England before returning home to lead CSK in the CLT20 soon after.

And in two months' time, the 33-year-old will be captaining the Indian team for a challenging tour of Australia and in February-March next year he will have an even difficult task of defending the World Cup crown that India won in Mumbai three years ago.

The moot question is whether India doesn't require afresh Dhoni to lead India during these twin assignments Down Under? The answer is yes and Dhoni knows it more than anyone else. However, when he has had the opportunity to take a break, Dhoni has let it pass, at least for now.

The chairman of the selection panel that heralded Dhoni into international cricket, Kiran More, feels that it's up to an individual to decide if and when he needs a break.

"We have to admire the way Dhoni has carried himself on the international stage. It's good to take a break when you have a few niggles around. But Dhoni knows best about his body and it's up to him to decide whether or not to take a break. He knows the challenges ahead of him and I hope he is fresh enough to lead the team in Australia," said More.

After taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in the ODI series against England in September, Dhoni had the opportunity to rest and see how the youngsters fared in his absence. But the Indian skipper, in an attempt to exact revenge on England for the humiliating Test series loss, targeted an ODI whitewash against the same opponents and played in the final ODI, only to see his team lose.

He could have opted out of the lone T20 match which came at the fag end of the tour, but the skipper, curiously, again decided to play. He had a ten-day break after the England tour (the longest break he has had in the last four months) before he hit the road again with the Chennai Super Kings side in Champions League T20, which ultimately saw them winning the tournament for the second time last Saturday.

On the day of the CLT20 final, the five wise men of Indian cricket sat down to pick the team for the West Indies ODIs and deliberated with the Indian captain on team composition. Dhoni had the option of ruling himself out of the ODI series given the fact the challenge against West Indies on home soil is not as challenging as compared to the tasks that lie ahead.

But he chose to lead the team picked for the first three games. It remains to be seen if Dhoni opts out of the final two ODIs if India take an unassailable lead. Even if he does, it would give him a break of only three days as he would not like to miss a chance of adding to his win tally when the Test series comes along.

In all probability it will be a jaded Dhoni, who will be on the flight to Australia. Will that tiredness also affect the fortunes of the team?

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