The Indian Angle: Futures of Dhoni, Fletcher and national game at stake

 

Eden Gardens

Indians did not actually say – as Viv Richards once did after India had beaten the West Indies on an underprepared track in Chennai – "come home and we'll show you". But it was implied after MS Dhoni's men lost the series in England 4-0 last year. Well, England have come, and it is India who are being shown up. It might be too early to write India off in the Kolkata Test, but if the England players take time out to check the price of champagne here, it is understandable.

Sachin Tendulkar had just got into double figures, when India last lost a series to England at home. That was 27 years ago; the Berlin Wall remained, the Soviet Union was in place.

If India lose, two gentlemen who have got away unscathed after the recent disasters abroad might find their jobs in danger. Dhoni, the second most powerful man in Indian cricket (after the board president N Srinivasan), and coach Duncan Fletcher, the Buddha.

India lost every Test of their last two series abroad (4-0 in Australia as well), and Dhoni was captain in seven of these. He is only one win behind Sourav Ganguly's record of 21 victories, in this, his 42nd Test in charge. He has already indicated a desire to give up the highest form of the game and concentrate on the two lower forms. India are still the world champions, and Dhoni's final six of last year's tournament is one of the iconic photographs of Indian sport.

Yet a defeat will certainly loosen Dhoni's hold on the captaincy, even if the board uses the classic Indian excuse: the acronym TINA ("There Is No Alternative"). It hasn't helped Virat Kohli's case that he has been struggling in the series, for he is the anointed one. Virender Sehwag has led in Dhoni's absence, while Gautam Gambhir too has led and nurses ambitions of a more permanent tenure. A defeat is always the best time to ring in changes at the top.

Remarkably, neither Dhoni nor Fletcher paid the price for India's defeats. Dhoni plays for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, the team which is owned by Srinivasan. Read into that what you will. Fletcher, possibly the brain behind the plan not to play spinners in the warm-up matches against England, can claim that he did it not so much to hide India's strength as to keep them from exposing their weakness. Not that he will, of course.

After the experience with his predecessor Greg Chappell, it is understandable if the cricket board suggested to Fletcher – a suggestion buttressed by the pay cheque – that he should be wary of opening his mouth. Fletcher possibly nodded.

He had taken England, then residing in the bottom half of the rankings to an Ashes win, and paved the way for their climb to No 1. In India, it has been the reverse. He has overseen the world's No 1 team dropping to No 5.

Yet, amazingly, no questions are being asked. Such is the power of silence. Fletcher has escaped scrutiny and criticism, which is strange in a sport where managers and coaches, especially high-profile ones, are constantly reminded that with power comes responsibility. This means either that the authorities do not think the coach is important or that the coach has little to do with the way India have been playing since he took over. Neither is a happy alternative.

Dramatic as it sounds, the future of Indian cricket might be decided over the next three days. A defeat will give voice to those in the board who have been contemplating old-fashioned virtues like responsibility, and pushing for change. It could pick up momentum, especially if the fans and the media add to the volume. A strong recovery, on the other hand, will hold down in place for a while longer the paper over the cracks.

Suresh Menon is editor of 'Wisden India Almanack'

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam