Dhoni's captaincy under scrutiny after defeat

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni plays a shot during the second ODI (One Day International) cricket match between Bangladesh and India at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on June 21, 2015. Photo: AFP

Mahendra Singh Dhoni knew what to expect before he walked off the field in Mirpur. He's captain of the limited-overs team in India, where cricket has no sporting equal. He led the Indian team that lost a series for the first time in Bangladesh.

Critics and fans would inevitably be calling for his dismissal, so Monday's headlines weren't surprising.

The 34-year-old Dhoni seems to have lost the touch that helped him guide India to win three major International Cricket Council titles – the 2007 World Twenty20, the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. They're 2-0 down in this three-match series.

The Hindu newspaper ran the headline "The heat is on Captain Cool" on Monday, while The Hindustan Times reported: "Captain going cold with both tactics and bat."

Dhoni was on edge in the post-match press conference in Bangladesh on Sunday, saying he was willing to play under someone else if that was the need of the hour.

"If it is justified that you remove me and Indian cricket will start doing well, then definitely I would love to step aside and play as just a player," Dhoni said. "I will still be happy because what is more important for me is to play for the country and contribute to a win."

Dhoni, who retired from test cricket last December, quitting as captain during a lopsided series loss to Australia, understands that the pressure is building on him. Virat Kohli has already taken over the captaincy of the test team and is the next logical choice in the ODI format.

In the past Dhoni has led teams containing senior players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, but now heads a young limited-overs squad.

"I was never in line to become the captain, but it was given to me. Now if you take it away from me I will still be happy because what is more important for me is to play for the country and contribute to a win," Dhoni said.

He assumed the captaincy for the 2007 World T20 tournament in South Africa – after India was knocked out in the first round of the World Cup in the Caribbean earlier that year – because other senior players skipped the T20 event.

His tenure started well, and the accolades continued when the team was at the top. Now, Dhoni says, he has become an easy target for criticism.

"I'm always the one blamed for everything wrong with Indian cricket. Maybe it is all because of me that everything is happening," he said.

"If you play long enough you see the good and bad days on the field. But I'm really enjoying my cricket," Dhoni added.

India is aiming to avoid a sweep when it takes on Bangladesh in the last ODI on Wednesday.


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