Just as India captain M S Dhoni was dismissed cheaply in the 4th ODI against South Africa, at Port Elizabeth, a public comment presented in between the commentary on a leading cricket website read: "I am not counting on Dhoni again. Can anyone remember the last time he played a significant innings?"
Actually, the Indian skipper has had a pretty decent 2010, aggregating 600 runs from 18 matches at an average of 42.89 as well as notching up two centuries along the way. His accomplishments might be obscured by the anonymity of his middle order batting, but the glaring question is that for man who has a career average of nearly 50 (incidentally, the highest average for any batsman in the current line-up), why is he batting like a hapless amateur in the ongoing series?
In the last four one-day matches, Dhoni has scored a cumulative of just 70 runs at a deplorable average of 17.50. Is this poor performance due to a severe dip in form, or is the captaincy weighing him down, or is it just a lack of focus at the root of his batting woes?
This man used to be the backbone of the Indian innings, a role which stems from his captaining responsibilities. But he has not risen above the mediocrity meted out by his fellow batsmen in the last few encounters and has more often than not, caved in with them.
Dhoni knows where the problems with India's showing in the current series lie, but has fallen short of addressing them. But there has been ambiguity even in him acknowledging the malady. For instance, following the third game, at Cape Town, which India won by a whisker, Dhoni stated that he "wasn't worried" about the Indian batting.
Yet, on the eve of the fifth and deciding match, at Centurion, he has called on the middle order to bat more responsibility. Well, in effect, he is calling upon himself to do the same. The buck stops with him and so he has to lead the way. Well, India fans will certainly be hoping he does...