Dhoni keeps calm and carries on as answers become more elusive

The Indian Angle: Replacing legends is going to be much tougher than had been anticipated

The Vidarbha CA Stadium, Nagpur

"Everybody was talking about this phase in Indian cricket when the big players will go out, and the pressure will fall on the youngsters and we will go through a rough patch. Now the same people are asking questions but not giving any solutions. You have to keep faith in the youngsters."

That was Mahendra Singh Dhoni the afternoon before the Nagpur Test against England started. Hurting a bit, with the losses piling up, and not too happy with the criticism levelled against him. Though, if he is to be believed, he has no clue about any of it, including news that the selectors wanted Dhoni out after the combined 0-8 scoreline in England and Australia. But he is still out there, day after day, picking the playing XI he feels is right, playing the game the way he thinks is most appropriate and not shying away from the tough questions.

Whether his critics – and the number has increased exponentially in the last year – like it or not, Dhoni is the captain of the Indian team and there doesn't seem to be an obvious alternative to replace him. With Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman both retired and Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh recently sent into wilderness, it's Dhoni who must lead whatever squad he is given, hoping to get more wins than losses against the team's name.

Who will these youngsters be though? Virat Kohli is one. Cheteshwar Pujara is another, at least in Test cricket. We got a glimpse of two others on the first day of the Nagpur Test – Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla, both bowling spin on a pitch that looked wrong for any level of cricket, let alone the first day of a crucial Test match.

Jadeja, a reserve spinner at best, picked up two big wickets – Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen – while Chawla, mostly unimpressive as he hardly made the batsmen play, got it right when he had Ian Bell driving straight to the strategically placed Kohli at short cover.

Not much to go by there, especially in Jadeja's case, given that he has been picked in the Test team as the No 6 batsman, something he would not have dreamt of even a few days ago, two triple centuries in five Ranji Trophy games earlier this season notwithstanding.

"When one of my team-mates told me about being picked in the Test team, I was fielding [for Saurashtra] in the last Ranji Trophy game," said Jadeja after the first day's play. "I thought he was joking."

The reason for his surprise was therefore obvious. The No 6 position has been an albatross around the Indian team's neck since Sourav Ganguly quit on this very ground four years ago. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been tried and discarded, while Subramaniam Badrinath and Manoj Tiwary were well ahead of Jadeja in the race until the two triples were racked up.

Putting down any batsman who has scored the runs that he has is disrespectful, but nothing we have seen from Jadeja in limited-overs cricket suggests that he is the solution to the No 6 problem. Judging him on the basis of whatever he does or doesn't do in Nagpur might not be fair either, considering that the pitch – according to Pietersen – is the toughest possible to score runs on.

And what about Chawla? Statistics like three wickets at an average of 45.66 in two Tests, and 32 wickets from 25 one-day internationals at an average of 34.90, don't exactly engender confidence either. The fact that he routinely failed to land the ball in the right areas and make the batsmen play him also goes against him. And it was probably a statement of sorts from Dhoni that Chawla was given just 13 overs to bowl (the same as R Ashwin), while Pragyan Ojha (27) and Jadeja (25) were trusted a lot more.

Indian cricket is in the midst of transition and, sooner rather than later, the last remnants of the golden years will also have faded away. No one said replacing legends would be easy, but the evidence so far suggests that it is going to be much tougher than anticipated. Which means that Dhoni, unless he decides he has had enough and wants to move on, should brace himself for some even tougher questions.

Shamya Dasgupta is senior editor at Wisden India: wisdenindia.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'