MS Dhoni and match analysis

In the game against Bangladesh last night, MS Dhoni produced a stumping for the ages — and that is applause-worthy. He also kept his head in the final ball of the game when, with the batsman attempting to scramble a single to tie the game, he judged his pace against that of the onrushing non-striker, and ran him out with space to spare. For that, too, he deserves kudos.

But his response to the first question of the post-match press conference (watch from 23.15) is totally uncalled for. It is also a surprisingly cheap shot from someone who has, for the most part, epitomised level-headedness and grace both on and off the pitch.

The journalist’s question is inaudible, but other reports filed by those who were there suggest that the question was: How content was he when, in a match where India needed to up its run-rate in order to improve its chances of qualifying for the semifinals, the team managed to eke out a one-run win.

Dhoni’s response:

Mujhe pata hai ki aapko kushi nahin hui ki India jeet gaya. Nahin, suniye, baat suniye. Aapki awaz se, aapki tone se, aapki sawaal se aisa lag raha hai ki aapko khushi nahi aaye ki India jeet gaya aaj. Theek hai? Aur jahan thak cricket ki match ki baat hai tho script nahin hota hai. It is not about the script. Aapko analyse karna padtha hai ki toss harne ke baad jis wicket pe humne batting ki thi, kya karan tha ki hum zyaada run nahin bana paye. Agar aap saari cheezen bahar baitke analyse nahin kar rahe hain, tho you shouldn’t ask these questions.

Firstly, that is a non-responsive response. The question is, how content are you with the outcome of the match? One of his usual say-nothing waffles would have done the trick: Well of course, we are happy we won but of course, we could have batted a bit better and of course… the sort of thing that every captain says at every press conference. The venom of this response is both uncalled for — from anyone, really — and unexpected from someone like Dhoni.

Second, that bit about reading the questioner’s tone is a surprisingly cheap attempt at draping himself in the national flag, and playing the man rather than the question. I, for one, am happy India won — but that does not blind me to the fact that for large swathes of the game, my team played shite. And judging admittedly on anecdotal evidence, I am not the only one who felt that way.

What of it? Does that make me an anti-national or something?

You want analysis? Ok then:

The powerplay overs were sub-optimal: 27 runs at the end of five. One opener — Shikhar Dhawan, whose form through this tournament thus far has been patchy at best — took the oxygen out of the innings as early as the second over, when against Shuvagata Hom’s off-spin he bracketed one four with five dot balls, and seemed incapable of even turning the strike over. Not a single one of those deliveries turned or bounced inordinately — in fact, Ashwin, bowling the corresponding over in the Bangladesh chase, got more turn and bounce off the wicket than his counterpart did against India.

Having got off to a slow start, the innings stuttered again in overs 7-9 (Shakib, Mashrafe, Shuvagata), when 18 deliveries produced a total of 10 runs. The impact of that inexplicable slow-down? India and Bangladesh were more or less level at the end of six overs (India 42/1; BD 45/1). By the end of the 9th over, Bangladesh had pulled well ahead on the chase (India 52/2; BD 67/2).

Even more inexplicably, between overs 16, 17 and 18, India (with Dhoni at the crease) managed a mere 11 runs in 18 deliveries. Again, this slump in the Indian innings allowed Bangladesh back into the game in the chase: at the end of 15, Bangladesh was 104/5 against India’s 112/3; by the end of 18, Bangladesh had pulled away to 130/6 against India’s 123/6. What gremlins in the pitch caused that slump at the business end of a T-20?

The analysis? On a pitch that played on the slower side but showed no sign of seam and swing or of the inordinate turn of an Eden Gardens or even a Nagpur, and against bowling that was thoughtful without ever being lethal, the Indian batsmen collectively fell into the trap of trying to muscle their way to a target, without adapting to the conditions and taking the sort of singles-first approach that had given them an easy win against Pakistan.

The proof of the pudding: 1/3 of the deliveries India faced — 45 balls out of 120, actually — was not scored off. This, while setting a target in a must-win game against a side known for batting depth. What particular devil in the wicket caused this?

So hell, yeah: again, as an Indian fan I am happy my team won — BHARAT MATA KI JAI — but I think our play was shite. (And I am not even getting into the Bangladesh chase, when we made some bizarre bowling decisions and dropped four catches, at least three of which would have been held at the school level, and repeatedly let the opposition off the hook).

So what of it? And what is this “script” Dhoni was talking about, apropos of nothing more than his own misdirected anger?

At a press conference after a particularly bad outing, a Pakistan reporter once stood up and asked Inzamam a long, involved question: Could you not have bowled this guy instead of that, and set the field this way instead of that, and when batting could you not have sent X ahead of Y, and so on.

Inzi listened patiently to the question and, when the reporter ended it with “Aapne yeh sab kyun nahin kiya?“, replied with the deadest of dead pans: “Aapne match ke pehle mujhe yeh sab kyun nahin bataya?”

So yeah, often there are things out there in the middle that we, who watch from home,  can’t see. We get that. But for Dhoni to suggest that a perfectly valid question stems from some antipathy towards India is not merely non-responsive — and, no other word for it, cheap — it evades the issue entirely. And that evasion — so surprising, so unexpected from such a source — makes us wonder what exactly is going on with the team.

Update, 6.15 PM: I just got the full question from Twitter:

Loosely translated: “Where there was talk of winning by a big margin, and of improving the NRR by winning by at least 40 runs, we ended up almost losing, and snatching a win at the last minute. How happy are you with this result?”

(And by the way, a friend in the media tells me there is some history between the journalist in question and MS).

Is that a badly phrased question? Yes. But does the question or the tone suggest the journalist would rather India had lost? IMO, no. (And after all, on this blog, all I am expressing is my opinion).

More to the point, is the question itself valid? Again IMO, yes — we did have that objective going into the game. Agreed, games don’t turn out the way you plan them — this, presumably, is the script MS is talking about. But

But here’s the thing: this is a press conference, not a one on one with a journalist you don’t like. Any question asked is for the general population. And — unfortunately, that is how it is — as captain of India (or indeed, as any public figure) you are often required to bite your tongue, count to a slow ten. It goes with the job, with the territory — no matter how hard it can be at times. And that is why MS’s response surprised me, and made me uncomfortable.

And all of that said, the fundamental question remains unanswered: Given this is a WC, given that the immediate objective is qualification, are you happy with the outcome?

Also adding my response to a similar point made by a friend, on Facebook:

MS forgets that whatever problems he has with this journalist, or even with the media itself, the responses a cricket captain makes are not for the journalist asking the question — this after all is not an off record one on one. The responses you make are — or are supposed to be — so that the fans, who follow the game (and who idolise the players) get some understanding of what happened in the game.

I’ve never yet met an Indian cricket captain who took this part of the job seriously, btw. It is invariably platitudes and BS.

Update at 10.30 regarding the question asked:



77 thoughts on “MS Dhoni and match analysis

  1. First of all, Dhoni is a cricketer not a politician or a bureaucrat from whom we expect a perfect, well thought and politically correct answer.

    Yes, he is a captain but most of times he can’t control the outcome of the decisions (Right/wrong) he takes is based on that particular moment.

    Nobody is perfect… Just chill..

  2. And because this “appropriate question” theme seems to recur in comments here, one pointer:

    Quote from MS Dhoni, before the Bangladesh match:

    “In the first game our run rate went down. So it’s not only about winning but you have to take care of the run-rate at some point,” added Dhoni.

    That is *precisely* what the question was about.

  3. Sir, I respect your opinion. But, Just think by putting yourself in his position for a moment. He’s been doing this for almost 12 years now.

    Let me ask you a question. You have provided some stats in your article. How much time did it take you to gather all that information? A day?
    And, here, in post match press conference, you expect him to go through all these numbers and be ready to answer any kind of question, all this in very short span of time.

    You are right, There are some loopholes which are ought to be taken care of. But, when you have just ended a thriller on a winning note and your heart is still pumping with 120 beats per minute, what do you expect from a person with the same nationality at other end? An appreciation?

    That particular reporter did his job fantastically as it was not a straight forward question. But, this man is also human. Please show some humanity while asking your question.
    No offense.

    • Tejas, to answer your questions: No, not one day. It took a little under 10 minutes. The players and captain need even less time — there is a support staff gathering all this information in real time.

      How long you have been doing a job of work is irrelevant, really. I started out as a journalist in December 1989. Does that mean that because I have been doing this for far longer than MS I know more than him? Of course not. Why go into irrelevancies?

      With ref appreciation — the team walked back to a standing ovation from the full house crowd at the stadium — an appreciation that did not question the method of the win. Why do you confuse fans and the media? The latter’s job is not that of a PR person; it is in fact to ask questions.

      And I am still to understand what was unfair about the question — AFAIK, after a cricket match, the nature of the win, the implications for the team’s further prospects, these are all usual questions (and I say this on the basis of having been reporting on cricket since 1996, and having attended dozens of these press conferences). The only thing I keep hearing is “tone” — which is highly subjective, no? I mean, I could easily think that the “tone” of your post here is argumentative. (It is not, of course; my point is simply that tone is simply a matter of perception, and not a fact).

      As to “the man is only human” — of course. But what has that got to do with anything? No one abused him (by the way, check my Twitter timeline — for writing what I did, there is tons of abuse; “bastard” is the least of it. What, I am not human?). A question was asked, that is all. And that circles back to the point of this post: It was an unnecessary over-reaction to a fairly ordinary question.

      No offense taken — I leave comments on my blog open so people can discuss, or disagree. That is fine with me.

  4. The longwinded analysis is very boring to read. Many arm chair cricket experts think cricket played on the field is similar to online games and comment accordingly. It is really very mean to find fault with Dhoni. Media has its own favourites whom they project irespective of their real worth but Dhoni isn’t one of them. He talks straight and not in circles or fancy English. He represents the common man and his aspirations. Shame on people who find silly faults on this greatest Cricketer of India.

    • Mmmm. And having gone through this blog, you have obviously come to some conclusions about who it is I am projecting?

  5. Can you remind yourself, in all fairnress and no bias towards a member of your fraternity, was the question a good one ?

    if you were to say that it is the journalists job to question then was the question a well researched one ? why in the world would any cricketer begin a game with the margin of victory in mind ? in this case the man in question is a legendary limited overs giant who has done it all with scripturesque detachment. why then, would ms dhoni think about nrr/margin/minnow/icc/presstitute/national-antinational ?!

    imagine if lala amarnath were asked thus. im sure the journalist would have been chased out with a stump

    what you describe as sweet nothings and yet show a sense of parody in your “Well of course, we are happy we won but of course, we could have batted a bit better and of course……….” smacks of class bias mr panicker.

    questions should be well researched and thought provoking, not irritating

    • Let’s get some basic facts right, Ankit: I am not employed by any media house. I actually quit mainstream media a year and three months ago, because I found my views on how we should report are not the views the MSM seems to be operating under right now. So maybe you want to rethink your view that I wrote all this to “defend my fraternity”. Yesterday, someone carried an Anil Kumble interview which was false — Anil is not even in the country just now. Do you see me defending that? The same day, some other “member of my fraternity” carried a fabricated story about Sunny Leone. I see no need to defend that. I mention all this merely to underline the point that if you ascribe motives to what I wrote, then it deflects from what I actually wrote, and that is unfair.

      To your second point: Yes, it was a good question. If you can set your anger aside for a moment, consider this: You are the captain. You are playing in the league phase of the World Cup. There are two slots open for the semifinals. One slot is already filled, so there is just one slot left — and you, as the Indian captain, know that two of your rivals, Australia and Pakistan, have a chance to grab that slot. Are you telling me that a team and its captain, in such a situation, will NOT think of more than just winning the game? Teams these days have entire research staff doing all this and sharing information in team meetings so they can consider all the options.

      Class bias, Mr Ankit? What class? I come from a family of government servants. We are strictly lower middle class. Since you asked me a lot of questions, let me ask you two: On what basis did you suggest that the reason for my post was to defend my fraternity? Go through this blog, which has been running for a long time, and see if you can find any evidence that I operate with that mindset. And two: With no idea at all who I am, how did you assume that my words were prompted by bias, class or otherwise?

      Those two questions lead to one more: As captain, you are expected to attend press conferences, and respond to questions. It is mandatory. I however have no compulsion to respond to your comments — and yet I spend this time meticulously answering you. How would you have reacted if I decided to get angry about your accusations of favoritism and class bias, and made my response abusive instead of factual?

  6. Are you serious? So much energy wasted for no good reason. Just because you can write doesn’t mean you have expose your stupid brain you dumb arse.

  7. I don’t get the point of this article. People get annoyed without reason, and sometimes people get angry after a tiring day. Often it is uncalled for. It’s pretty ordinary and does not warrant a 1000+ word article. If I were to do the same for my life, I would have written a book by now.

  8. You guys have made the lives of Hindoos miserable. Nobody can question Hamid Ansari, the Vice President. He has to be given a good press coz he is Muslim & media loves Muslims. SRK, Aamir can never be given a bad press coz they r Muslim. When a Hindu doctor is butchered by a Muslim mob, his murder is ignored coz the murderers r Muslims.
    Now, Dhoni is being disliked coz he refused 2 criticize so called intolerance. The liberals went after him calling him a ‘fading star’ etc. Dhoni is not wrong in feeling like a victim like other Hindoos.
    The media has become Hinduphobic & Hindu haters like Rana Ayyub r not even called out for their bigotry. Hindoos r angry & Chrisliamists/liberals/commies shud understand that we r not going anywhere. We will not be silent like we were when $onia went after us.

    • Oh, wonderful!! This is a Hindu thing now? Just so you know — I am a Hindu. My family runs two temples in Calicut, one as a trust, and one that we own and operate ourselves. (And no, we don’t do it to make money — not a penny of it comes back to us).

      Is this the best you can do — play the Hindu card even on a post that has nothing to do with religion, with Hinduism? Really?

      • I did not play the Hindu card. I told u what Hindus largely feel. We feel under siege. Our lives do not matter to the seculars other Marxist/Chrislamists. Our media behaves like a Sharia state: all Hindu customs are attacked, those of Chrislamists spared; our lives do not matter (Dr. Narang, Sawan etc.) whereas Muslims like Akhlaq r given martyrdom status.
        Again, Muslim politicians like Ansari get a free pass when they speak as Muslims whereas Hindus are expected 2 suppress their Hinduness.
        These r all facts and Hindus feel that the secular establishment is being unfair to them.

        If Dhoni was a Muslim, he wud get kidglove treatment like Sania. Remember how Rupa Subramanya was attacked for making fun of her sometime ago.

          • Yes, and my introspection makes me realise this: Nothing that I said in my post had anything to do with any of the issues you have raised. This has become a fashion — no matter what the topic, somehow drag in Hinduism, and liberals, and a whole lot of related buzz words. Nothing I can do about that — except, here on, ensure that I devote my time to responding to to-the-point comments, and leave the rest outside off. Cheers.

  9. Bhai iss article me bde pyaar se dhoni ke ek ek word ko as it is daala gya hai….bilkul waise hi journalist ke bhi words ko likhna thaa na…..
    The way he asked question …kisi ko bhi gussa dila sakta thaa…
    Yaad kro wo din jb exams ke result ke baad baaki wale uncle bina karan ka tont maarte thee….it dosn,t mean ki unhe hmare padhai ki chinta thee….bs bhgwan ne muh diya thaa so bk diya…..
    Saalo journalist …..sachhai puchhna hai puchho bt uske naam me chutiyapa na patko

  10. Some of the points made here are totally agreeable
    1. Indian start was bad (batting)
    2.Dhawan played poorly in the entire series (also Asia cup)
    3.bizzare bowling decisions

  11. For you the question from the journalist wasn’t clear but there are videos that make it pretty well heard what the journalist asked. Secondly it wasn’t the question but the way it was asked that enraged Dhoni. It was as if the journalist asking the question was trying to accuse our captain of something. I believe that cricket is about chances taken or lost and in the end nobody wants to end up on the loosing side. So, my request to the person writing this article is that instead of talking about Dhoni’s tone and enraged reply please talk about his cricket because he is a cricketer not a politician or diplomat. Everybody at some point looses there cool. Cheers.

  12. Why press is what God, u cannot turn heat on them, I see a such a poor and pathetic work and like work in this analysis, what you wanna prove by doing this, answer a Big Nothing…you wanna Dent Dhoni’s image then please ,

    • Oh good. As I read this, I thought you were asking me a question — “what it is you wanna prove…” but then I realized you answered yourself, and you were talking to yourself not me. Cool.

  13. What’s the point of ‘biting your tongue and a slow count to 10’? MS as a public figure, you mentioned that he shouldn’t have reacted in that way but why? When he’s in a press conference, why can’t he say what he really wants, irrespective of that positive, negative or CHEAP for that matter?
    That leaves a bad impression on fans, you say? Most of the cricket fans are super happy the way the match concluded and are proud and hopeful in the tournament.

    Now, let’s assume he shouldn’t have said that, being a public figure. I got to ask this to the author of this essay, “Did you bite your tongue or had a slow count to 10 before writing this or did you proof read and posted?” You’re also a public figure someway as google cards suggested me this article which i thought would have some substance and I’m sure a lot people are reading this and you too are leaving an impression. End of the day, MS said what he wanted to and You wrote what you wanted to and both of you are leaving impressions in some way or the other and MS here looks pretty cool again.

    Enjoy the tournament. 🙂

    • Arpit, to the core point of your question — the answer is yes. I posted this over 12 hours *after* the press conference. That is long enough to count — very slowly — to ten. And yes, I proof-read what I write before I publish — why, did you see errors in my spelling, grammar etc?

      As to the last part, that is perfectly ok. A journalist asked a question he thought was relevant. MS replied as he saw fit. I had some thoughts about that reply, which I posted. You as a reader have some thoughts about what I wrote, which you have freely expressed. All of this is absolutely fine — no one’s freedom has been impinged.

      About fans being super happy? Do check my Twitter timeline and see what my reaction was when the game ended (and keep in mind that reaction was posted 12 hours before I wrote this, and at least one hour before the PC). I stopped cricket reporting a long time ago — now I too watch just as a fan. So yeah, I am super happy too. (I am also super worried because a few chinks in the composition of the team could prove costly in the must-win game on Sunday, but never mind that for now). What has fans being happy or not got to do with the subject of my post?

      And you too, pal — enjoy, as the WC gets into the last lap.

  14. I was watching this advertisement on TV the other day about how the media was deciding which feature of the country should they deface next, when all due to something a reporter saw, she said we should not demonstrate only the bad part of the country as there are good things happening as well. Clearly it is a work of fiction going by the standard of the question in question here and the misleading article this.
    As far as M.S Dhoni’s reply is concerned, if people can ask such demotivating questions immediately after the team has literally pulled a bunny out of the hat, then M.S is also entitled to his personal opinion even if be an earful for the reporter. Especially because if the reporters can ask any thing hiding behind the right to freedom of speech and right to information of media, they should not forget that M.S is a citizen of the same country and has the same right ro freedom of speech and expression that the reporter does.
    As far as this demeaning article is concerned which trying to teach M.S how he should conduct himself, I request the author to go back and check between the media and M.S who has a longer record of crossing the line and misconducts by means of inappropriate questions, be it to cricketers or movie stars or politicians just to get some air time.
    I don’t see MS or team speaking or writing any such blog as to how they were disappointed by the question.
    I agree that the media has a right to be critical in order for things to improve but with all due respect sir, those 15 players in their carry the hopes of a billion people and I dont think the question asked was appropriate especially after what they had achieved in the match. You have to understand, its a 20-20 match, there is no such thing as an underdog team here, hence every match requires a 100% effort from the players. If not anything, please appreciate that and ask questions or make comments which reflect intellectuality and not cheap shots.

    • When you suggest that asking about the NRR situation and its impact on India’s chances of progress is a “cheap shot”, I really have no response to offer. But I do have a question: What is, according to you, an “intellectual” question in such a situation?

  15. Mr. Panicker, please dont see this question in isolation. Of late, journalists have been trying to frustrate Dhoni by asking leading questions related to his retirement, Kohli taking over etc. Just because a journalist is privileged enough to ask questions doesnt mean they ask anything and everything. After Dhoni’s hard, stressful day, courtesy says journalist should have at-least congratulated him before trying to throw a question which implicitly criticised India’s performance. I think it was a blatant use of journalistic freedom to have a go at our Captain cool. To sum it up, yes, it was not the best answer from Dhoni for this isolated question but seen in a larger context, the journalist asked for it!

    • And if Dhoni had responded angrily to such questions, I would have no problem. In fact, Dhoni has responded angrily to questions about retirement, and I didn’t say anything. (In fact, I thought the journalist deserved what he got).

      Which leaves the question of this being the first question after a hard, tiring day. Unfortunately, that is how pressers work. The handler calls on someone at random to ask questions. Now if you are a reporter, you may have ten questions you want to ask; NRR may be just one of them, but from the point of view of the tournament it is an important one. You did not volunteer to ask the first question — someone picked you. It is equally possible that the handler — who has no idea who is going to ask what — could have picked someone else, and that someone might have asked something about that superb stumping. Point being, it is not a journalist’s fault that he happens to be picked first — he was, and he asked the question that was uppermost in his mind.

      Assume for a moment that you are a public figure and are giving a press conference. Are you going to lay down rules like: People should first congratulate me and say nice things about me. No one should ask hard questions. And so on?

  16. Perhaps, as a journalist, one has to be ready to face such responses to your questions rite? You are not always guaranteed a well worded, polite response. Are you? And journalists aren’t any powerful men to whom some respect needs to be given “specially”. But an INDIAN CAPTAIN is a powerful man! Fans care about him more than any journalist, especially in today’s India. Clearly you guys are not prepared to take some ire or harsh answers/criticism and you expect the other person to be polite enough to reply to your question? That sounds like stupid hypocrisy to me!!!!


    • Sorry, you miss the point. The journalist in question DID accept the harsh words, and did not say a word in response. I did — and I have nothing to do with that journalist or the media house. So much for your belief that “clearly you guys are not prepared…” etc. Just what made it “clear” — the fact that the journalist, who could have protested the harsh tone, quietly took it?

      One thing I find interesting about your response: You suggest that powerful men have a leeway to speak as they like. Ok. I hope — I say this sincerely — that you don’t in your life ever run into a “powerful man” who speaks to you with contempt.

  17. First of all after that sort of a match that question was absolutely nonsense at that point of time. Now coming to the point of winning with big margin Here’s My take on it Bangladesh has improved vastly over the past couple of years, they ran Australia close and almost beat of India because of those two drop chances, they are a very good Limited overs side Team they are here to play and win also and because India was never in a position in that match where they could have taken the advantage agreed that India did not play at their best but you got to look at the match situation before asking shitty questions. And by the way from where is this idea of winning with much higher run rate came from I mean India just need to beat Australia and they are through why are you preassuming that India will lose to Australia and then the net run rate will come into play, I mean if India lose 2 Matches and play like this then they don’t deserve to go in to the semi finals.

    • Hello? Who said anything about Bangladesh being a bad side? Are you suggesting that teams don’t calculate all these variables, before a match, and plan for every eventuality? There is a lot else in here, but I don’t want to repeat what I have been saying to other commenters, so I won’t go into all that all over again.

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