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What's the idea of a ruthless No 1?

Wednesday, July 13, 2021
From the RKives

The first team that comes to everyone's mind over the last couple of decades is quite obviously Australia - Australia under Steve Waugh, to be more precise.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is yet to lose a Test series as a captain and he has led the Indian team in 11 series including the one in the West Indies recently. © AFP

Post Australia, the team that’s had this number one ranking for a while has been India. Therefore, it's obvious that the ruthlessness of these two teams would be tested in every sense of the word– on the field plus the stats and the numbers that will involve the teams.

For convenience, let’s take the tale of two captains – Steve Waugh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

What is it that goes in favour of Mahendra Singh Dhoni?

He is yet to lose a Test series as a captain and he has led the Indian team in 11 series including the one in the West Indies recently. Over all, he has been the captain of the side in 27 Test matches – thats a good achievement. So in terms of the win-loss ratio he ranks amongst the best the world has ever seen.

But the thing that’s cropping up for debate is the ruthlessness part of it. 33.33 per cent of the results have been draws – that means one in every three test matches haven’t produced a result. So that’s one negative that might go against Dhoni.

And more so on the basis of circumstantial evidence in the just concluded series against the West Indies.

We shall come back to MSD in just a bit. Let's see what Stephen Rodger Waugh has done as captain. In 57 Test matches, he has had 41 wins and 9 losses. He has been very impressive in that period and when you consider only 12 per cent of the games have ended in draws then it's even more impressive.

Now let's examine the losses for Steve Waugh's side.

Barring the first three losses, of which two came against the West Indies, the others have more often than not been in dead rubbers. Yes, there was that big series in India in 2001 – that was lively – but then you could see the same Steve Waugh side crumble when they didn’t have the best bowling line-up in Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. India went to Australia in 2003 and drew the series there against the mighty Aussies.

Coming back to India, yes, at some level we can agree that India should have been ruthless. But is India playing the strongest side? That’s the question. Imagine an Australian side that doesn't have Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden at the top. Take out their best number four and then take out Glenn McGrath. How much of a force will they be and how many results will they be willing to force? That’s the question to be asked.

A few might argue that the West Indies are not the strongest team. The point is that irrespective of them being a strong team or not, they are not the strongest batting unit. But they are still a strong bowling unit and that is the real difference.

Yes, it’s easy to turn around and say India should have been ruthless but the bigger question is will you risk a defeat and hence square the series? India have done alright and they have will be happy looking ahead of the England series. Ishant Sharma is in good form; the middle order is looking good with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. The return of Sachin Tendulkar and the openers would mean things are looking better for the Indian team. What is your take on this?

Radhakrishnan Sreenivasan

Radhakrishnan Sreenivasan is a popular presenter and commentator of Neo Cricket. He hosts the flagship show named Extra Cover that covers all the International cricket matches.