From Dhoni to Kohli, what next for the Indian Cricket team?

From Dhoni to Kohli, what next for the Indian Cricket team?

MS Dhoni’s step down from captaincy was not quite the news that Indian cricket fans wanted to hear in the new year. It is one of those things which always feels like it came too soon. Under Mahi’s leadership, the blue brigade conquered every peak in each format of the game. It all began in South Africa almost a decade ago when India won the inaugural ICC World T20. The World Cup win in 2011 at home and Champions Trophy success in England two years later made Dhoni the only captain ever to win all ICC tournaments. To cap it all, he also led the team to the number one ranking in Tests. On the face of it, his decision might seem unreasonable but I would testify against it.

Handing the baton to Virat in the limited overs formats was more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’. This had been predicted since MSD retired from the longer version of the game. Dhoni will turn 36 this summer and there is no saying that he would be in peak condition come 2019. He has taken a lot of flak for his batting form in the past one year. At the same time he remains India’s best finisher, if not the world’s best.

Kohli now has ample time to mould the side for the next world cup. The transition from tests to one-dayers should be further smoothened due to the team’s high morale following recent performances. For team India, Kohli’s promotion could not have come at a better time.

Return of Dhoni, the entertainer?

RELIEVED, TO RELIVE: Dhoni would now be assessed on his batting alone

RELIEVED, TO RELIVE: Dhoni would now be assessed on his batting alone

The same goes for Dhoni as well. There is nothing left for Dhoni to prove as a leader. But one area where he might still have room for improvement is his batting . Critics of Dhoni have pointed out in the past that his selection into the team is adulterated by the fact that he is the captain. They go so far to say that he would not have made the team on his batting merits alone. This would be very harsh on him. One must not forget that he got into the side as a swashbuckling batsman. His aggression may have been channeled into stability but he is no slouch today. It is for a reason that he has close to 10,000 runs at an average of over 50 in ODIs.

His contributions behind the stumps would be sorely missed too. Being the wicketkeeper made his job as a captain somewhat easier I believe (but still very tough!). Over the years Dhoni showcased his shrewdness as a keeper on many occasions. What he lacked in agility while catching, he made up in his anticipation. Of all his three duties, India would be troubled most in finding a able replacement for Dhoni, the wicketkeeper.

Dhoni giving up the captaincy will leave doubts in the eyes of many. Kohli’s record as skipper would inevitably be compared to Dhoni’s. Then again every good thing in the world comes to an end. It is a win-win situation for the team as well as the player. We would now have to wait and see Dhoni in his new (or old?) avatar. Who knows what trick he has up his sleeve?

Abhishek Ramesh

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