Unacceptable ways of two captains…

In an article on the Umpire Decision Review System, the UDRS, I alluded to the umpires assistance system drawing two distinct and different responses from captains in two countries separated by the Indian Ocean. The Boxing Day Test matches at the MCG and Kingsmead, Durban, saw Ricky Ponting and Greame Smith pull their hair out at the UDRS — the former because it was there and, in his view, implemented wrongly and the latter, because it just wasn’t there! In South Africa and in Australia, we had two captains acting in somewhat strange ways.

Fast forward to the eve of the New Years’ Test matches in Australia and South Africa and we again have two mystifying cases of captains doing things in strange ways.

On the eve of the RSA-India Test match, the hot-headed, ill-tempered, motormouth, Sreesanth received a public rebuke and a dressing down from his captain, MS Dhoni.

On the eve of the Australia-England Test match, it was Ricky Ponting and not Michael Clarke who responded to the Australian Prime Minister Julia Guillard’s speech.

Both of these were examples of bad leadership, in my view.

Mind you, Sreesanth should have his head kicked in (repeatedly). He just does not seem to learn from his past transgressions. He started off as a bit of a maverick when he twirled his bat — lasso-style — at serial-foul-mouth Andre Nel, after he had hit the South African bowler for a six! That was somewhat cute! Most of us tolerated it and put that down to a fiery personality who gave it back as good as he got; a joker who did not take a backward step in coming forward. His track record of offensive behavior since that incident, makes for sorry reading. Make no mistake of that. He sledged an Australian player as a drinks-carrier after which Ian Chappell called for his banning from the game for a period of time! Sreesanth’s own response to all of the brouhaha surrounding him was that he wanted to “find that exact limit between really bad and really good. See how far I can go.”


One thought he had learned his lessons. But no, a few months later, he got slapped by Harbhajan Singh and immediately broke down and cried on the field.

Subsequent to that the BCCI warned him that he was on a suspended sentence for bad behavior for using foul language against Dhawal Kulkarni in an Irani Cup match. A contrite Sreesanth said we would all see a new-and-improved man on the ground henceforth. A few months later, he was fined for dissent during the IPL.

His is a case of a talented bowler doing more with his eyes and mouth than with his excellent wrists, when bowling. His is an example of an errant boy who just refuses to grow up. His over-the-top antics, which were once “cute” are now becoming an acute embarrassment to a fan of Team India.

At the top of his run up, prior to bowling every ball, Sreesanth pumps his hands two or three times in a motion that seems to suggest “Stay calm and focus”. Somewhere between that motion and when he actually delivers the ball, his brain appears to either get fried or tired. What usually happens then is a stare or a glare or some foul words delivered in the direction of the batsman. The day is not far away when an opposition batsman will hit him with a bat. The BCCI and the Team India captain needs to ensure that their motormouth is adequately insured from such an eventuality.

Story is that in Durban, Sreesanth invoked Greame Smith’s mother in a colorful sledge delivered at the South African captain. An irate Smith waved his bat at the foul-mouthed Indian bowler, lost his head and immediately lost his wicket too!

Dreadfully sad? No. Not really.

My own view is that those who throw stones in an open and filthy drain should not be allowed to dictate the chemistry of the liquid that splashes back at them. However, that said, there is apparently a “line” that cricketers do not cross. Don’t ask me why that line exists. I’d be all for an all-or-nothing approach where one can bring in anything and anyone into a sledge! I am yet to see the Mafia’s published rule book on honorable and dignified methods of killing, for example!

However, the fact is that Graeme Smith was extremely upset that the cricket field was a place where Sreesanth wanted to conduct a discussion on his mother! Smith complained to Dhoni.

Dhoni washed dirty linen in a press conference and reprimanded his player through the media!

I thought that that was a strange case study in bad leadership; strange because Dhoni always comes across as a man who is correct and yet clear in everything he utters. This was certainly very strange. Mind you, Sreesanth, as I said before, does repeatedly cry out to have his head kicked in. But to do that through the media either indicates a bad hair-day for Dhoni or that the India captain is at the end of his tether! Either way this is practice of bad leadership.

Across the Indian Ocean, we witnessed another stark example of bad leadership. Ricky Ponting had just vacated his post as captain of the Australian cricket team. Micheal Clarke was appointed caretaker captain for the last Test against the visiting (and already triumphant) England. Instead of leaving the controls in Clarke’s hands and disappearing from the scene, Ponting indicated that he would hover around the team in the dressing room! This was remote-control leadership. It just does not work. The bus was being driven by Michael Clarke, but Ponting’s hand was firmly on the wheel!

For example, at an official reception to the teams it was Ponting that responded to a welcome by Australian Prime Minister, Julia Guillard.

In my view, these are two examples of questionable leadership on the same day!

— Mohan

13 responses to “Unacceptable ways of two captains…

  1. Happy New Year, Mohan.

  2. Nice article! Keep writing mate..

  3. Dear
    You are being too critical for Sreesant. Australian players often misbehave and getaway with such behaviour. Glen McGrath , Mark Taylor , Mark Waugh , Andrew Symonds , Andrew Symonds , Ricky Ponting , Shane Watson have done it so many times and got away with it.

    Please let the boy breath ! We don’t really want gentleman cricket who are often good losers

  4. I am not sure how Ponting and Dhoni can be equated on bad leadership. After reading the articles about how Dhoni dealt with the Smith/Sreesanth incident, I think he showed good leadership. He accepts publicly that Sreesanth’s overt aggression is not the way to go. It is clear that he has tried other means before ( ‘he was difficult to control’) and so he is trying this public approach.

  5. Dude go get a life man, i mean this did not make any sense to me – blaming dhoni for he bought sree down for some alleged bad mouthing – where were you when all this was being given to the Indian Team and everyone sat back – regarding ponting though, ur assessment is spot on.

  6. @Baathu: In my books, a leader should never censure a team-member through the public/media. It would have sufficed if Dhoni has said, “Graeme Smith and I had a calm and polite exchange on on-field behavior”, and left it at that. His sharp words on Sreesanth ought to have been reserved FOR Sreesanth (at most, in the presence of a senior mentor in the team like Zaheer Khan). Yes, it is likely that he has censured him in private in the past (“he was difficult to control”). But by talking to Sreesanth through the public/media, Dhoni has demonstrated that he is either (a) incapable of controlling his ward through direct words in the dressing room or, (b) has given up. Either way, this is an example of bad leadership in my books. Unusual because Dhoni has an otherwise impeccable record.

    @Aishvarya: There is a difference between McGrath, Taylor, Watson, et al and Sreesanth. Ever since Sreesanth bowled that terrible (irrefutably deliberate) beamer in England, I have marked him down as a hot-head who will go down as a wasted talent unless he reigns himself in. Yes, we must let the lad breathe, but he must exorcise his demons first. Only he stands between himself and greatness.

  7. @Isha: Last time I checked, I have got a life, but thanks for the offer 🙂

    In your haste to belt out a response, it appears to me that you have tripped over yourself and made a mess of your face! I have no problems with “sledging the sledgers”. As I said in my article, those who throw stones should not complain about the splash-back mess.

    My problem is with the way Dhoni censured Sreesanth.

  8. I agree on the Sreesanth part but Ponting hanging around Aussie dressing room does not seem wrong.It is natural to be there for a team you have lead till the previous match unless he is specifically interfering with Clarke’s leadership. And if Clarke is going to continue to lead, Ponting will eventually be in his team.

  9. Hi Mohan
    As always, another well written piece – yours is one of the few websites that has meaningful and analytical stuff being written. Couldn’t agree more on Ponting’s presence in the dressing room and also your earlier story on the UDRS. Ponting had no business to be with the team once it was announced he is no longer in the team as a member and also as the captain for the SCG match. I think Punter is finding it hard to stomach the fact he is no longer the Aussie test skipper and is behaving like a child and still is nourishing false hopes of leading the team in test matches. When I saw him on the TV with the team, I was thinking “what the f*** is he doing here undermining Clarke?” The blame also should be laid at the ACA CEO’s door for letting this happen. And I’m indeed happy when the gap between Punter and Sachin keeps widening (with Sachin’s 51st century last night) and if his test career ends soon I won’t be displeased. Re: teh UDRS, that was an excellent piece and very useful suggestions. If the idea is get the howlers off, then why place a limit on the number of appeals? Does it mean that after two unsuccessful appeals, it doesn’t matter if the umpires make blunders? Also I agree that it should be the umpires running the show and not the players – players should play and umpires should umpire – elementary one would think.

  10. Excellent piece Mohan. You write very well. I stumbled on this piece when searching blogs for the “ponting” tag. I agree with your analysis on Dhoni and Ponting.

    I don’t think any Indian player will ever trust Dhoni in the future. He has demonstrated a willingness to sell them short. To rebuke a player through the media is just not on. I detect a huge weakness in Dhoni and other teams and captains will ram it into him now.

    Ponting is clutching at straws. How else can you express his presence in the dressing room? As you say, Clarke is driving the bus, but Ponting’s hand is on the wheel — excellent metaphor.

    After stumbling on your article, I also read the UDRS piece. Agree 100% with that too.

    Keep up the excellent writing. Need more like you mate.

  11. Hi,

    Dhoni’s captaincy by way of handling of players has been showing up. Even before the match, he had quoted Sreesanth cannot be controlled. And to chastise his teammate through media is ridiculous.

    Yes, Sree is a hot head – but does it mean he should accept bottles and stuff being pelted on him by the crowd.

    And to top it when he complained to the umpires, Dhoni seemed to be amused – giving a sense ‘take it easy’ ‘oh what big deal’ ‘oh it was on you’ kind of looks. Aptly enough in the commentary Allan Donald santimoniously harping on – just get on with the game, if the crowd says something just take it easy.

    A strong leader of men like Ranatunga or Imran or Brearley would have talked to the umpire in no uncertain terms immaterial of his player being a hot head or not. Remember a Chappell or Brearley always took care of huge hot head egos like Lillee or Botham or Boycott. Sree does not deserve this.

    Furthermore – did head the saintly chirp from Boucher when Sree was at the batting crease – ‘you are a disgrace’ and stuff which was clear enough. Wonder what more was said. BTW who are these guys like Harris, Smith and Boucher (Harris wasnt around when the said incident was supposed to have taken place) to determine what is agreeable and what is not agreeable on a chirp. Sree’s mouthing is terrible but these Africans, Australians and English getting away with is far more terrible.

    The worst aspect is to close an eye to the latter.

    As to this chriping and talking – one could clearly see Steyn and go mouthing at the Indians almost every ball – where are all these great folks who desire the gentleman’s game? I challenge if any of the words spoken can be repeated verbatim in a family television channel without a blip. So, if the Aussies English and Africans do not want to take it back – simple shut up and play the game.

    I dont remember an incident where an Indian player started a banter or slegde. The exception being Sree – hence he has turned their bete noire.

    Cheers guys and have a great year ahead.

  12. Srikanth Mangalam


    Based on the responses, Sreesanth is probably going to send you a valentine’s card:)

  13. i Guess 2011 will india’s year … they will rock

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