A balancing act for the Indian captain

A balancing act for the Indian captain

His overworked body was rebelling against the near non-stop cricket he has played for more than one year now. Test cricket, one-day international cricket, Twenty20 internationals, the IPL, the Champions League – the Jharkhandi has hardly had a break worth the name, and we are talking only playing.

You couldn’t but feel sorry for the man as he ticked off the injuries – painful heel, blows to the shin, a blow to the ribs. And he wasn’t even talking about the numerous knocks his fingers have taken on this tour, especially from Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth who get the ball to wobble late.

There is more to the life of an international cricketer than just turning up on the park and parading his skills. There is the travel and then there is practice; when you also happen to the wicket-keeper and the captain of the side, the burden becomes even heavier.

Heavy burden
Strategy sessions with the think-tank, a generic team meeting and a specific bowlers’ meeting, the need to think not just about his game but also think for the others, especially his bowling group, and the demands of man-management can take a lot out of the mind. Dhoni has handled these responsibilities beautifully.

His equanimity and the ability to respond with equal poise to victory and defeat have been staunch allies; he has discovered means of keeping the mind fresh, such as going to a nearby shooting range on Monday morning to deliberately take the focus away from cricket, even if the body has taken a serious beating.

With the World Cup imminent, it is imperative that the skipper gets at least a couple of games off to recharge his batteries before the gruelling campaign begins. Yes, the one-day series against South Africa is important, particularly given India’s pathetic record here, but the larger goal which is the World Cup almost dictates that Dhoni be rested at some stage in the next five days.

The arrival here of Parthiv Patel, flown in as replacement for Sachin Tendulkar, means there is now a specialist wicket-keeper too, thereby affording Dhoni a luxury not available until a couple of days back. The skipper, however, was non-committal when asked if he would sit out a couple of games to rest and recuperate. “It depends on the series, on how it goes,” he said, then added with a smile, “Of course,  getting a game’s rest may be good for me, but we will have to see what situation we are in and then decide what to do.”

That’s the lot of the captain – team before self. Saying that, it won’t hurt the team going into the World Cup if, for a change, the skipper isn’t selfless.