Team India have a 'Save Dhoni' campaign ahead of them if they want to pre-empt a ban on their skipper in the Lord's Test against England, beginning July 21. Dhoni must not have his team turn up slow on the over-rate in the third Test against the West Indies from Wednesday, for it would incur an immediate ban of one Test match on him.
The Indian team follow their Caribbean odyssey with a star-billed series in England this summer and if Dhoni's team is not alert, it could make him sit out in the Lord's Test. Dhoni has already been twice guilty of breaching ICC Code of Conduct, rule 2.5, which states that a captain who is pulled up for three offences of slow over-rates in a 12-month period, would suffer an automatic ban in the next match of the same format.
Dhoni and his men were deemed to have bowled three overs short during the recently-concluded Barbados Test, which was the second such offence in 2011, following a similar breach of rules in the Cape Town Test against South Africa earlier this year. The onus is now on India's three premier bowlers to avert such a fate befalling their skipper.
Ishant Sharma is fantastic form with a 10-wicket haul in the drawn Barbados Test but he takes unusually long time to finish up his overs. "Ishant takes a long time to return to his bowling crease and it sometimes stretches his over to seven minutes," said an insider from the Barbados Test.
The case with Praveen Kumar is a little different. Praveen does return to his bowling mark briskly but he has the habit of standing and looking at the batsman, after a delivery has passed the bat and gone to the wicket-keeper.
Even Harbhajan Singh, though a spinner, is not much of a help in making up for slow overs. "If he bowls 20 overs in a day, you would still find the slow over-rate hasn't improved by much."
To be fair to Harbhajan, he got to bowl only 14 and 19 overs from the two innings in the Barbados Test. In contrast, Ishant and Praveen bowled the bulk of the overs - 42 for the former, 39 for the latter - which makes it 81 overs bowled from the 145 overs in twoWest Indies' innings.
"Bowlers like Glenn McGrath, if you remember, used to wear a watch on their wrist while bowling," said the source.
"To be fair, it is not easy for a genuine fast bowler to finish his overs in time. Teams which have had Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar usually struggle to keep up with the over-rates."
In the Barbados Test, Dhoni knew all along that he was behind the required rate in a stipulated time but even he was guilty of not rushing up the matter.
Dhoni, being an innovative captain, keeps shuffling his fielders constantly and it doesn't help in finishing the overs in time. He did try getting Suresh Raina to bowl his off-spinners on the last afternoon in a bid to speed up the rate but it only marginally helped the matter.
Thus, Indian bowlers are required to win the Dominica Test and win the three-Test series but if it comes at the cost of a ban on their skipper, they would have paid a heavy cost for their efforts.