Mahendra Singh Dhoni has found another supporter in Ravi Shastri, who feels he is the right man to lead Team India in Test cricket too. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has consistently stood by Dhoni as the leader of the Test team despite repeated overseas failures.
It's been more than three years since India won a Test series abroad when they beat the West Indies in June 2011. Forget winning a series, in these three years they have won only one Test: the one in which they beat England at Lord's earlier this year.
Amidst calls for relieving Dhoni of his job as Test captain, Ravi Shastri, the Team India director till the 2015 World Cup, tried putting things into perspective yesterday.
He stressed on the importance of having experienced bowlers who can take 20 wickets to win a Test match. "Dhoni is handicapped by inexperienced bowlers.
Give him at least two experienced fast bowlers and you see the difference. It all boils down to taking 20 wickets. When you know you can't take 20 wickets, you know you don't have the bowlers to compete in those conditions then you start running out of ideas.
Only sides that can take 20 wickets can surprise you like England in 2012. During our 18 months as the No 1 Test team, though we played more at home, we also did well in Sri Lanka (drawing the series 1-1) and West Indies (winning 1-0)," Shastri said during an interaction at the Press Club yesterday.
Dhoni, who took charge from Anil Kumble after his retirement during India-Australia Test series at home in 2008, has won 27, lost 17 and drawn 14 of his 58 Tests — the most by an Indian captain.
Also, Dhoni had never lost a Test series till June 2011. India's historic 1-0 Test series win in New Zealand was largely possible because of the presence three quality pacers — Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel.
To make his point even more clear, Shastri recalled the 2011 series where England whitewashed India 4-0. "If you see, we were playing the Test series with virtually two-and-a-half bowlers on the 2011 England tour.
Zaheer Khan pulling up short in the first Test at Lord's. Then Harbhajan Singh out of action. You can't expect to win Test matches with just two bowlers. Forget taking 20 wickets, we would not have taken even 10 wickets.
"It doesn't matter if you have Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman in the line-up. The batting is going to come under pressure," said the former India captain.
So, is it time to make changes? "But who do we have? We have to have the ammunition.
That was the best we had. You mean to say we could have taken anybody else when we lost 4-0 in England and Australia," said Shastri, who will also follow the Indian domestic season closely to keep an eye on talented players.
27 The number of Tests won by MS Dhoni — the most by any Indian skipper
No need for five-match Test series: Shastri
Ravi Shastri is not a big fan of the five-Test series concept. "With the amount of cricket taking place, you will find that once you go for a five-Test series, 80 to 90 per cent of the time the home team will win and you will see teams going straight down after the third match. You saw what happened to England in Australia during the Ashes.
"In future, just restrict all Test series to three, because imagine a team coming to India and they are three nil down after three Tests. How much interest would there be? I am looking at the crowd sitting and watching, I am looking at television ratings, I am looking at the way the game is going to the future and how you sustain interest from people who want to watch it and follow. I still think five is too much," said the former India skipper.