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Itís Day Two at Old Trafford. Varun Aaron is about to start a new spell. From the top of his run-up he sees Virat Kohli, on the captainís instructions, move from gully to leg-slip. The pacer doesnít like the change and objects. Dhoni overrules. Kohli moves to leg-slip and Varun is ready to bowl again.
Ravindra Jadeja is about to start a new spell. He is ready to bowl over the wicket. Dhoni asks him to go around the stumps. Almost robotically, Jadeja switches sides. No dialogue, no objection.
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is doing all the thinking on field these days. Bowlers bowl to his plan and stick to the angles that are true to fields set for them. Most times in this series, all the big ideas (not always effective) have emerged from the behind the stumps.
Unlike in the past, Dhoni, in this England series, canít be blamed for switching off or letting things drift. That allegation can now be transferred to the bowlers in the side. From a distance, certainly not a vantage point to gauge the huddle talk, it seems the bowlers shouldnít be blamed. They are merely listening and, subsequently, following instructions. Thinking, or being imaginative, is the captainís prerogative.
The first hint of Dhoniís new assertive approach came after the Lordís win last month. While experiencing the high of winning an away Test, the usually tight-lipped skipper let down his guard. At a media conference, he spoke (and really spoke in this case) about his crucial on-field interaction with a team-mate ó the dayís hero Ishant Sharma. It threw light on the how India ideates these days, specifically how the short ball came into play and how Ishant got four wickets by aiming at the rib cage of the England batsman.
ďItís difficult to convince him (Ishant). When he came to bowl I told him bowl short and he turned the other way. I set the field for him so that he doesnít even think of bowling up,Ē said Dhoni, after Indiaís historic win last month. ďThe strategy was to give Ishant a field so he is forced to bowl the length that I want him to bowl.Ē
Buoyed by Lordís success, Dhoni has continued to set fields for his bowlers and has forced them to stick to the line he wants. Since the plan hasnít worked, the on-field conversations havenít again surfaced in press briefings. Itís highly