Kohli wants the captaincy, of that there’s no doubt

When India won the fifth one-day international against Australia on January 23, the first man to run out on to the field and congratulate the two batsmen at the crease — Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh Mann crease — was Virat Kohli. One would have expected the Indian captain, M.S. Dhoni, to be doing this.

This is but the latest bit of gamesmanship by Kohli to indicate to Dhoni that his time is up and that he (Kohli) should be leading India instead.

Earlier in the same game, one could see Kohli often going up to the bowlers and offering advice as though he was in charge. And there were other occasions when he spoke to Dhoni, clearly suggesting a field change, which, in most cases, was made.

Dhoni is only a shadow of his former self and this was evident in the painful innings he played on the night. The man who is often touted as the best one-day finished in world cricket did not stay for the finish, holing out after making 34 off 42 balls. At that stage India still needed six runs off four balls.

By contrast, young Pandey made 104 off 81 balls. He put Dhoni to shame, as did Rohit Sharma (99 off 108) and Shikhar Dhawan (78 off 56).

Dhoni has always been conservative out on the field. He never tries to make things go his way, he always waits for them to take their course. To be a little more succinct, he tends to dawdle. What he does, he does four or five overs too late.

Kohli, on the other hand, is an aggressive person by nature, always looking to engineer a dismissal and taking the fight to the opposition. No better illustration was given than in the third one-day match when James Faulkner attempted to rile up Kohli. What Faulkner said was not picked up by the stump microphone, but Kohli’s reply was heard clearly: “You’re wasting your energy. There’s no point, I’ve smashed you enough in my life. Just go and bowl.”

Dhoni would probably have looked the other way if Faulkner had tried to get under his skin.

Two positives for India in final one-day match

There were two positives for India to take away from the final one-day international against Australia, apart from the unexpected win: the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah and the batting of Manish Pandey.

Pandey will probably figure in more media reports as he was the man of the match for making an unbeaten 104 off 81 balls to see the tourists home. But Bumrah’s performance is more significant for India, given that its bowling stocks are not upto the mark.

Bumrah is not unduly tall but he seems to follow the traditional approach of the fast bowler of yore. He has an unusual action, with his right arm coming down from its maximum height just before delivery. He also is not afraid to attack the stumps and slip in the occasional yorker and does not look to merely contain the batsman.

Bumrah also seems to use the bouncer more intelligently than most of the others in the Indian team, occasionally getting the ball to rear up to an uncomfortable height.

Indeed so good was Bumrah’s debut performance that he was called on bowl overs 45 and 49; in the latter, he bowled James Faulkner with the first ball and conceded only three runs in toto. He ended with the excellent analysis of 2 for 40, the other wicket being that of Australian skipper Steve Smith whom he had caught at mid-wicket by Rohit Sharma.

Pandey’s batting can best be described as being uncomplicated. His hitting was clean and calculated. He did not seem unduly ruffled by the situation as his captain, M.S. Dhoni, dawdled at the other end, letting the run-rate climb. India needed 35 in the last three overs, before getting 13 in the 48th and nine in the 49th.

The final over bowled by Mitchell Marsh began with a wide before Dhoni clouted a six off the first legal delivery. The Indian captain was caught off the second but Pandey edged the third ball down to third man for a boundary and then lofted the fourth over the infield to take India home. Dhoni’s innings was painful, with his 34 coming off 42 balls. He is clearly only a shadow of the player he once was and the sooner he hands over the captaincy to Virat Kohli, the better.

Australia fell a little short of a better total than the 330 they put up as they got just seven runs in the last two overs. Mitch Marsh was on 98 at the end of over 48. Bumrah conceded three runs in over 49 and with Marsh intent on his hundred, runs were not the priority. The fact that Ishant Sharma hit Marsh a glancing blow in the groin region in the last over did not help Australia’s cause either.

India has given hints that it is more focused on the T20 games that follow by bringing in Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh into the squad.

Dhoni, don’t outstay your welcome, please go

India’s shock loss in the fourth one-day match against Australia was one way that the players had of sending a message: members of the team don’t want Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain because he has lost that magic touch he once had.

Dhoni is more of a zombie and several members of the team are loath to play to their full potential and win games anymore because the captain will be able to bask in reflected glory.

The series against South Africa last year gave an indication of this: the one-day series and the Twenty20 series were both won by South Africa. Dhoni captained India in both these series. But when it came to the Test matches under Virat Kohli, India thrashed South Africa 3-0 and would have won the one drawn Test too had it not been for rain washing out most of the game.

Dhoni quit Test cricket when the Indian team was in Australia in 2014-15. He did not play in the first Test due to an injury and India lost this under Kohli but they went down fighting. Dhoni captained in the second Test which was lost rather badly and he quit Test cricket after that. Kohli took over and both the remaining Tests were drawn.

The fourth one-day match of the current seris, played on January 20, saw India lose from a winning position; chasing 349, they were 1-277 with both Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli having reached three figures. Dhawan then fell to a lazy stroke. Dhoni came in and was out for a duck; soon after, Kohli gave a catch to mid-off similar to those one gives during net practice.

Towards the latter part of the Indian innings, Ravindra Jadeja, an extremely competent batsman, was around but strangely refused to take a leadership role.

Jadeja came in at number six in the 40th over, with India needing 71 to win. He did not make any attempt to farm the strike, did not speak to the batsmen at the other end, and kept taking singles and exposing players much less able than him to face up.

Jadeja’s behaviour was passing strange, more so in the context of the Indian team manager Ravi Shastri having said on the eve of the fourth game: “Jaddu showed in the Test series (against South Africa) that he has matured a lot.

“Whenever he batted he played crucial innings. Why not in Australia? When he gets the opportunity… you have to get the opportunity first. We have batted so well at the top that the opportunity hasn’t been there. If and when there is a situation, like Australia were (in Melbourne, where the third one-day game was played), six down or seven down with another 60 to get. That will be his test.”

Yet Jadeja was placed in precisely this situation in Canberra and chose to protect his wicket and not bother about the team’s fate. What other reason could one apportion than his desire to see the team lose so that Dhoni would not be able to take the credit?

Dhoni must quit at the end of this tour, if not earlier, else India will be disgraced in the upcoming World Twenty20 tournament as well.

Why India will not win a single match in Australia

Indian supporters who have been barracking for their country in the five-match one-day series against Australia assume that their team wants to win.

In that they are sadly mistaken.

The series was effectively over yesterday with Australia’s third straight win; the remaining games in Canberra and Sydney are now meaningless. For India, this is all part of a financial arrangement between the cricket boards of the two countries, and the players are not really interested. Their one interest is money.

The five one-day matches and the three Twenty20 games will bring in more money for the Australian board than the six Tests of the summer, three between Australia and New Zealand and three between Australia and the West Indies. And that is what matters.

After the advent of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament in 2008, Indian players, no matter whether they are in the national teams or not, have been playing solely for themselves. Their only concern is to keep themselves fit enough and perform so that they can earn another contract with one of the teams in the IPL and continue earning stupendous sums of money.

Though India is said to be a poor country, the IPL has no shortage of funds because the black money in India – and for every legit rupee there are 100 in the black economy — is being brought out by businessmen to fund the tournament. Else, there is no way such huge sums would be available to pay players and to stage the spectacle. The government is happy to stay quiet because more and more black money is becoming legal tender.

You can see the lack of motivation in the manner the Indian team plays. In both games one and two, India could easily have scored more than the 309 and 308 they did, after winning the toss in both cases and batting. But they fiddled around, and ended up at least 20 or 30 runs short of a competitive total.

Their tactics are old world; while the rest of the world shows a sense of urgency from the word go, India likes to dawdle, play beautiful cricket shots that go to a fielder nine times out of 10, and make a big rush at the end to try and boost the total.

A total of 300 was some years ago psychologically important in one-day cricket; it theoretically meant that one’s opponent would have to score at a run a ball in order to win. But after Twenty20 came into vogue, the rate of scoring has grown by leaps and bounds. These days, anything short of 350 will not bother even the weakest of teams.

Australia always hurries up at the start because the fielding restrictions are more and the team that is batting is at an advantage. Players use their heads a lot more than the Indians do.

Nobody would call Steve Smith’s batting an aesthetically pleasing spectacle but the man knows how to beat the field even with awkward strokes. He gets on with the job and scores fast. Rarely does he fail. On the other hand, Virat Kohli would delight the purist with his style. But he takes many more strokes to get the same score as Smith.

For Smith, the fact that he is the captain means something.

His Indian counterpart, M.S. Dhoni, stands like a cow behind the wickets and, even at a stage of his cricket career when he should be wiser, often makes the most elementary tactical mistakes. Dhoni retired from Tests last year but is still sticking around for the money that is available to those who are part of the national one-day and Twenty20 teams.

But then he is not alone. Every Indian player is driven by that one motive.

In the third game, the Indian opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan consumed 91 balls — nearly a third of the total overs available to the team — to make 68. It was looking a bit embarrassing for him after two bad failures in the first two games. So he stuck around and scored; the team’s interests would have been better served had he gone for the runs and even got out.

But Dhawan’s sole interest is to keep his place in the team.

Expect more of the same in games four and five and three T20 matches that follow.