FATIGUE, the absence of a head coach and over-reliance on the IPL have emerged as the three major reasons for India’s first-ever ODI series defeat to Bangladesh.
As the Indian team dissected their performance after Sunday’s game, the administrative manager for the series Biswarup Dey is likely to highlight these three issues in his report to BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, according to a source.
However, the defeat is unlikely to affect MS Dhoni’s position as ODI captain. “I don’t think the Board will take a decision based on just one series. For the moment, Dhoni appears to be safe, at least for the next series,” the team source told The Indian Express.
On Sunday night, after the team’s second straight loss to Bangladesh in the three-match series, Dhoni had hinted that he could step down, if needed. “If you remove me and Indian cricket will start doing well, then definitely I would love to step aside and play as just a player,” he said.
Dhoni added that he would still be happy if “they” take the captaincy away from him.
“By ‘they’, I think he meant the selectors and the cricket board… the remarks came out of frustration (following the loss). There’s nothing to suggest that he has lost the dressing room. It’s still pretty united. There was disappointment but no negative vibes,” said the source.
“In hindsight, we might have been better off with a few fresh faces. The players were physically exhausted and mentally drained out. They’ve been playing almost non-stop for the last nine-odd months. They were not in top shape mentally and failed to raise their game,” the source said, while denying that complacency was an issue.
“Professionals can’t be complacent. The players wanted to bounce back after losing the first game. But mentally they were not there and it affected their performance,” he said.
Last year, India had sent their reserve side for a three-match ODI series in Bangladesh. The young team, led by Suresh Raina, won the first two matches before the final game was abandoned due to rain.
Later, India toured England, and hosted West Indies and Sri Lanka before leaving for Australia for a four-Test series, a tri-series and the World Cup.
The IPL came on the heels of the quadrennial showpiece. Reportedly, some top stars, including Test captain Virat Kohli, wanted to opt out of the Bangladesh tour but the BCCI decided to send full-strength squads for the one-off Test and three ODIs.
The source suggested that the team also missed a “hands-on” coach. The post of head coach is still vacant after Duncan Fletcher’s term ended after the World Cup, and the BCCI sent the team to Bangladesh with Ravi Shastri continuing as director and the coaching unit of Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar working under him.
“We have three coaches and don’t need another coach. I can double up to do the job (of head coach) if needed,” Shastri had said.
But on Sunday night, Dhoni hinted that the team missed a full-time man on the job, asking a reporter in the press conference whether he missed Fletcher, too.
“Shastri has been doing his job well but he’s the team director. We need a hands-on coach, especially in situations like these to get the best out of the players. Bangar, Arun and Sridhar worked very hard and did their best (to prepare the team), but a head coach should be appointed at the earliest,” said the source.
And maybe, he added, the time has come to put the IPL performances in perspective. “Perhaps, we are giving a little too much importance to performances in the IPL. It’s a very good tournament but you can’t properly assess a talent in this format of the game. International cricket is at a different level and some players have been struggling to bridge the gap. We should rather focus more on first-class cricket. That’s the stage to judge potential,” the source added.
Ambati Rayudu, an IPL hit, has played only four ODIs this year, scoring 58 runs at an average of 14.50. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who made his mark in the 2014 IPL, played five ODIs this year, scoring one run and taking three wickets at an average of 54.66. On Sunday, he got out for a first ball duck and conceded 48 runs in seven overs on a turning pitch.
Rayudu was preferred ahead of Ajinkya Rahane in the second ODI. Dhoni stood by the decision, saying, “We all felt that he (Rahane) needs pace on the wicket to play well. On faster wickets he plays a lot better. But when he plays at No 4 or No 5 on a slower wicket, he finds it difficult to rotate the strike.”
The source confirmed that leaving out Rahane was a “collective decision”.