Dhoni deals with home truths
Cricket “under the microscope” is an occupational hazard with which Mahendra Singh Dhoni has long since learned to live as captain of India.
Calls for his resignation or sacking have been interspersed over the past two weeks - in which England have fought back to take a 2-1 Test series lead - with a clamour for the retirement of veteran master batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Pleas for seismic shifts in selection policy for a team of ageing superstars have so far been met since last week’s seven-wicket defeat at Eden Gardens with the decision to drop mainstays Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.
Dhoni is still left in charge of some familiar faces, all previously highly-successful, and it seems he is not yet minded to yield to those who insist his team is past its sell-by date.
As they prepare to defend their eight-year unbeaten home record in the final Test in Nagpur tomorrow, the captain faced a stream of familiar questions.
Will he stay on as captain? What is the future for 39-year-old Tendulkar? Does his team feel under pressure?
In answer to the first, Dhoni was equivocal: “Let’s see. (I will) while I am enjoying it, because that’s very important. If you’re not really enjoying the sport, then it becomes very difficult.
“In a way it’s good that we are in a position like this - we have nowhere to go - and have to do well in this game.”
Tendulkar’s presence remains an asset too, he believes.
“He’s the best man to have in the side in a game like this, the amount of experience he’s got and the kind of performances he’s given under pressure over the years,” added Dhoni. “He has proved everybody wrong throughout his career.”
India badly need Tendulkar to do just that one more time, maybe the last.
Collectively, meanwhile, Dhoni insists the home dressing room remains a confident environment despite successive defeats in Mumbai and Kolkata.
“The spirit is really good. That’s something we have maintained quite well,” he said.
“We have struggled in the last two Test matches ... but you have to be consistent; you have to keep faith in the players, people who have done a lot for Indian cricket over the years.
“We are still enjoying (our) cricket - which at times you don’t tend to do when you’re going through a rough patch.”
Dhoni knows that, irrespective of all the frantic criticism, only he and his team-mates have the power to put things right in Nagpur.
“Everybody asks the questions that we are also asking, but nobody comes up with a solution,” he said.
“If you’re part of Indian cricket, (you know) everything is under the microscope ... it’s a big part of our life to live like that ... and everybody has an opinion about it. That’s how it goes in India.”