|Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir
Calcutta: The dramatis personae may not admit it, but Board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan’s “intervention” helped Mahendra Singh Dhoni keep the India captaincy in Test cricket earlier this season.
Dhoni has been the captain in all three formats from November 2008.
According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, the then selectors (Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat) had “unanimously” decided to remove the 2007 World T20 and the 2011 World Cup-winning captain from the premier format when they met in Mumbai on August 10 to pick three squads.
Srinivasan, however, said “it’s not the right time to change” when Board secretary Sanjay Jagdale telephoned him to convey that the quintet was all for Dhoni’s removal as the Test captain.
But, then, it’s not a state secret that Srinivasan is very favourably disposed towards Dhoni, who also captains the Chennai Super Kings, seen as his team in the IPL.
Before Jagdale made that call from the Cricket Centre, Srikkanth and Co. had quickly agreed to elevate Gautam Gambhir, who’d captained the Kolkata Knight Riders to victory in the IPL’s last edition.
Despite being senior, Virender Sehwag’s “dodgy form,” one learns, kept him out of the picture.
Eventually, Gambhir had to be satisfied with the vice-captaincy for the World T20.
In what would have been rather unusual, Dhoni could still have continued as the ’keeper in Test cricket, as Wriddhiman Saha was injured.
Or, Parthiv Patel may have made a comeback.
There was no real discussion on the ’keeper’s post as Srinivasan had shot down a change in captaincy.
Without specifically mentioning Srinivasan, Amarnath has created more than a flutter by saying: “Definitely, there were discussions to replace Dhoni and people were agreeing to do so, but for some reasons, internal reasons, it didn’t happen...
“When the time is right, I’ll let the people know about the reasons... There’s interference and, in India, cricket is no different from politics.”
It’s widely believed that Amarnath’s “independent” way of thinking, and his tough stand after eight Test losses in a row overseas (seven under Dhoni’s captaincy), led to his removal as a selector.
Amarnath could have continued for a further three years, but it’s not in his genes to act in the way others want him to.
Ironically, when he came on board last year, Amarnath had been “promised” the chairmanship at the end of Srikkanth’s term, this September.
As things turned out, Sandeep Patil, hand-picked by Srinivasan, is in Srikkanth’s chair. He wasn’t anywhere in the frame, mind you.
That day in August, Srikkanth and his colleagues picked the squad for the two-Test series against New Zealand, the T20 Internationals against the same opposition, and the squad for the World T20.
With India trailing 1-2 to England in the four-Test series, calls for Dhoni’s head have got louder.
Even if there’s no obvious alternative right now, Dhoni’s position is bound to become untenable if India actually lose a series at home.
Dhoni doesn’t want to run away from responsibility, but he’s getting no marks for not wanting to desert (at this stage) a sinking ship.
And, yes, the many braying for Dhoni have conveniently forgotten that a captain is only as good as his team.