The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 19 , 2014
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A captain is only as good as his team, says Sunny

- 10 defeats & 4th consecutive series loss overseas
Sunil Gavaskar

Calcutta: With India completing a dismal tour of New Zealand with a draw in the second Test on Tuesday, questions are already being raised regarding the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But despite losing the Test and ODI series in New Zealand, which was supposed to be an easy outing, Dhoni found support from none other than Sunil Gavaskar.

Asked whether it was time to ease the workload on Dhoni and find a new captain in Tests, Gavaskar told a television channel: “I don’t think so. Not at the moment.

“I think Dhoni still has plenty to offer. A captain can do very little if you don’t have a bowling attack. Generally a captain is only as good as his team. That is a saying which is absolutely true.

“I haven’t seen a person who by sheer captaincy has changed the fortunes of a team. There can be inspirational moments and inspirational periods in every Test match. Every captain gets those moments… But those moments don’t necessarily win you matches.

“The fact is this Indian team don’t have bowlers who can take 20 wickets… That’s the bottom line… There are no bowlers in the team who can make a difference single-handedly.”

Asked if despite ten defeats and losing four consecutive series overseas (series in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand), Dhoni is getting a longer rope compared to previous Indian captains, Gavaskar said: “I think that perception is there only because there has been no other person who can come around and stake a claim and say look he is there and he is ready.

“That’s the reason why the perception is there that he has survived despite not winning overseas. But the thing is, he is winning handsomely in India and, therefore, it’s very difficult to say to him, okay thank you, you won 3-0, all three Test matches in India, but sorry your overseas record is not good so we are going to change the captain. That kind of thing doesn’t work.”

He also did not agree that Dhoni was feeling the pressure of being captain in all three formats. “Not as far as Dhoni is concerned. I am yet to meet someone so completely cool and being able to absorb pressure as Dhoni has done throughout his career.

“He is not the guy who will come be any pressure or face tension of captaining in three different formats plus the Indian Premier League. I don’t think he is the kind of person who will be affected by pressure.”

Asked about India’s performance abroad, Gavaskar said: “I suppose it’s a matter of perception. As captain, you would think there is some improvement because you haven’t lost all the Test matches… They didn’t lose both Test matches in South Africa, they haven’t lost both the Test matches here.

“While on their previous overseas tours, to Australia and to England they lost all the Tests and all the ODIs. So maybe the perception is that the team has improved.”

What would have been his reaction if he was captain and his team couldn’t win from a strong position, he said: “I would have been disappointed… that I wasn’t able to win from a winning position. I think I would have been disappointed definitely.”

After India conceded a 0-4 defeat in the ODI series to New Zealand, Gavaskar had lashed out at the Indian players, saying that they should not take their place for granted.

The former India captain said Mahendra Singh Dhoni should not stick to the ‘core group’ of players. In fact, Dhoni should try out young players and, if necessary, bring back discarded seniors.

“Of course, you have to look at talents coming through. You cannot rule out everybody else, overlook other emerging players and say that this is my core group… That will send out a wrong message. It will mean that you are telling the players in the squad that you can do whatever you want over the next 12 months. You can score very few runs or take very wickets, but you will still be selected. I don't think that is the right path to take if you want to defend the World Cup.

“I think there should be a healthy competition in the side. Never mind what the age of a player is, they should fight for a spot in the XI… You should have a horses for courses policy. And by that I mean that guys who are in form should be encouraged. When a player is out of form, you cannot wait for him to hit form because by the time he starts scoring runs or taking wickets, it might be too late,” Gavaskar said.