Dhoni must show he still cares about Tests: Atherton
Former England captain Michael Atherton feels that it is high time for Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to show that he still cares about the longer format of the game.
Atherton feels that it is the last chance for Dhoni to prove in the ongoing fifth Test at The Oval that he was not ambivalent about Test cricket.
"It is a last chance for Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara to show their class on this tour and they remain outstanding young players. Ultimately, the make-up of their team is less important than the attitude that accompanies it. How badly do they want to win? We may remain as ambivalent about Dhoni.... but at the end of the game we need to know that Dhoni is not ambivalent about Test cricket, this Test series and this match. A bit of desperation will go a long way," said Atherton.
Atherton feels that "India's captain is a remarkable cricketer in so many ways, successful, savvy, and streetwise as he is."
Recalling Dhoni's valiant 71 in India's first innings score of 152 at the Old Trafford in the fourth Test, Atherton said the knock was a typical example of how "match awareness can override technical deficiencies."
"His innings at Old Trafford, as the debris of India's top order batting swirled around him, was a lesson in how match awareness can override technical deficiencies. His wicketkeeping at Lord's, when he stood about four metres back for Ravindra Jadeja, spoke of a man uninterested in either convention or what the critics might say," Atherton wrote in his column in The Times, London.
Atherton said Dhoni's ability to separate his professional and personal style was the key to his sanity in the mad world of Indian cricket.
"Two days before the Oval Test, he missed practice and went shooting. When asked about it at the pre-match press conference, he refused to give details, saying it was a day off, so off-limits. Most England captains live the job 24/7, Dhoni keeps cricket and life separate, a significant reason for his continued sanity, no doubt.
"He has a Zen-like calm in victory or defeat, and a detachment that seems to insulate him against the mad, mad world of Indian cricket. That must translate to his players, allowing them to relax as best they can. The value of that approach can be seen in India's trophy cabinet, which under Dhoni has included the World Cup, World Twenty20, Champions Trophy and Test mace. A clean sweep," he said.
Atherton was surprised how Dhoni after the innings defeat at the Old Trafford said he was quite happy with his team's development and the need to show patience.
"There must have been many Indian supporters out there who wanted to shake him by the collar and shout: 'Wake up, man, your team have just let themselves down.' They played like it was not a Test match but just any old match. Maybe, for Dhoni, it was," said Atherton.
The English skipper wondered how Dhoni must have felt after the loss at Old Trafford.
"Was his stomach churning, as most captains' would have been with the flimsy capitulation and then, even more so, as Old Trafford was swamped under the ensuing deluge, which meant that, had they batted out the day, they would still have a chance of winning this series? And how does he feel about this final Test? Is there any desperation in his bones to turn things around?" said Atherton.
Atherton said a bit of desperation can be no bad thing, especially for someone as detached and calm as Dhoni.
"His team needs to know now that this game (The Oval Test) matters - it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, of course, but they need that bit of kidology that says it matters - and he needs to show them that he cares about the next five days, that, win or lose, it is not just any old game," he said.
(Posted on 16-08-2014)