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India confronted by Dhoni dilemma

India confronted by Dhoni dilemma

For Dhoni the Australian mystery has been hard to crack.

Perth: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s international career has been nothing short of a fairytale. The boy from Jharkhand, already India’s One-Day and T20 captain and deputy to Anil Kumble in the whites. But three Test matches and six innings in Australia have done little to enhance his reputation and he is another dilemma confronting the Indian management.

“Australia, anywhere in the world is the biggest challenge, whether it is Test match cricket, One-Day cricket or T20," said Dhoni.

For a man who has counter-punched against the world’s best teams with success, the Australian mystery has been hard to crack. In Perth, Dhoni finally appeared to be conquering the devils before an odd shot claimed him.

In six innings on tour so far, Dhoni has made a mere 105 runs. He averages under 18 and hasn’t made a single half-century.

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In fact, with an average of just over 35 in Test cricket Dhoni still has got a lot to prove. He may be the captain in waiting but there are some who dare to ask one big question - Can Dhoni take his Test place for granted?

And its this man who forces that question to be asked. Till recently Dinesh Karthik was a certainty in the Indian XI but a bad series against Pakistan forced him out. But with this innings against the ACT XI in Canberra last week, Karthik sent the message that he is ready if the team needs him.

Already the series has claimed its first victim - Dhoni’s deputy in the shorter versions of the game - Yuvraj Singh has been dropped after a poor run. Both men though have had the support of their more successful team-mates.

“This can happen to any player in the world. A couple of innings here and there you don’t score runs, doesn’t mean that you get back to your room and start worrying about your batting," said Sachin Tendulkar.

Unlike Yuvraj, Dhoni atleast has some reason for cheer. Behind the stumps his work has been faultless. In the first innings he picked up five neat catches to support his young bowling unit.

There is one other sub-plot to this debate. If any major decision has to be made about Dhoni’s place in the XI as vice-captain he will be part of that debate. Can there be a greater dilemma for a 26-year-old man in only his fourth year of international cricket?

first published:January 18, 2008, 22:23 IST