Article Uploaded by Pratish Doshi
Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Rising Pune Supergiants‘ Indian Premier League 2016 campaign seems to be going from bad to worse with Australia’s Steve Smith becoming the latest international star to be ruled out of the tournament due to an injury.
The Pune Supergiants, who had already lost Kevin Pietersen andFaf du Plessis through injuries, suffered another setback whenMitchell Marsh exited the tournament on Sunday because of a side strain.
Smith, who on Friday night registered his maiden T20 hundred, has been a key man for Pune in their first season, scoring 270 runs at 45, and as such the news comes as a major blow for a side that is languishing in sixth spot in the standings and has already been beset by injuries.
Cricket Australia on Monday confirmed that Smith will return home from the IPL due to a wrist injury.
Team Sports Science and Sports Medicine Manager Alex Kountouris said: “Steve has been struggling with pain in his right wrist for the last week during his stint in the IPL.
“We have been working with his IPL franchise Pune to monitor this and unfortunately it has not resolved. As such, he will return home from India for further assessment and treatment ahead of the Tour of the West Indies.”
“From the information we have so far, this doesn’t appear to be a serious injury but we are keen to give him the time to recover and rehabilitate before heading to the West Indies at the end of May,” Kountouris added in a CA release.
With things not going well on-field – RPS are sixth in the IPL table with just two wins in eight matches – off-field troubles too are now mounting for Dhoni’s side.
Following Mitchell Marsh’s exit, RPS took on Mumbai Indians on Sunday night, and once again outclassed with MI skipper Rohit Sharma leading from the front in the easy eight-wicket win.
A poor workman blames his tools. One was reminded of this saying when, after losing to the Gujarat Lions (GL) on his home ground on the night of Friday, April 29, the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) captain Dhoni publicly blamed his opening bowlers for not being able to defend a formidable score of 195 for 3, with Steve Smith’s century (101 off 54 balls) going in vain.
Questions could be asked not just of the RPS opening bowlers but of Dhoni’s captaincy. This season has seen skipper Dhoni losing four consecutive games for the first time in his IPL career. Has Dhoni become too defensive to the extent where he is losing games he could have won?
On April 29, despite losing the toss and being asked to bat, a score of 195 should have put the Pune team firmly in the driver’s seat. With such a massive total to defend, Dhoni could have attacked right from the start despite the field restrictions during the six overs of the power-play. Dhoni had more than enough runs to have two slips and a deep third-man during the power-play while asking his faster bowlers to bowl a consistent line and length just on or outside the off-stump.
Instead, Dhoni resorted to his usual ploy of having a fly-slip by increasing the gap between the wicket-keeper and the fielder. In the very first over by Albie Morkel, McCullum’s edge went past the keeper Dhoni and through the vacant first-slip position to the fence. The edge would have gone straight into the hands of a first slip. And when McCullum and Dwayne Smith started hitting out, even the fly-slip was removed and the GL cruised to 72 for no loss off the first six overs of the power-play, requiring a run-rate of below 9 for the remaining 14 overs.
With that kind of momentum, the GL was in control of the game. Once the game goes down to the last over, the side batting second usually wins, especially if it has wickets in hand. The pressure is then on the bowling side and a lost chance in the final stages (a dropped catch or a missed run-out) only adds to the frustration of a team which expects to win after posting a formidable total like 195 for 3.
Seizing the moment is something which is crucial in all forms of the game, especially T20 cricket. It is something which Dhoni no longer seems to be able to regularly do. Blaming the bowers is something losers do. All the teams have to make do with somewhat depleted bowling attacks in the ninth season of IPL which commenced days after the conclusion of the ICC World T20 Tournament in India.
For instance, the strongest batting side in the IPL, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, which boasts of superstar batters like Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers, is missing both its opening pacer Mitchell Starc and its leg-spinner Samuel Badree who bowled the West Indies to the World T20 championship. It is only the Kolkata Kinight Riders (KKR) which has a balanced bowling attack.
Publicly blaming the bowlers during a post-match press-briefing undermines their confidence. It is something which Mahendra Singh Dhoni would never have done in the good old days when he was known the world over as Captain Cool.
It’s quite possible that Dhoni is feeling the fatigue in his ninth season of IPL, where he not only has to lead a new franchise but also play the demanding roles of a wicket-keeper and the main middle-order batsman. Maybe it’s time RPS shifted the burden of the captaincy onto Steve Smith or Ajinkya Rahane so that Dhoni could get back to enjoying his batting and wicket-keeping. Australia has regained the number-one ranking in Test cricket under Smith while Rahane could bring a fresh mind to the task of captaincy. Remember Mumbai Indians won the IPL not once but twice after the captaincy was handed over to Rohit Sharma who had never led before.
About Author: Pratish Doshi