“He used to be the finisher, India’s pride and world’s envy, but he is struggling a bit now. It is tough when you are not playing regularly; it can affect your performance. But my advice would be to just let him be because he has won India so many matches”
Sunil Gavaskar | Former India skipper and opening batsman.
The above comment aptly sums up the present state of India’s current ODI and T20 skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (MSD). Smarting under the defeats against South Africa (3-2) and Bangladesh (2-1), msd has suddenly become a pariah in the Indian squad with the recent ODI series loss to Australia. All these despite Dhoni’s Team India making it to the semi final of World Cup 2014, when nobody gave them a chance to even go beyond initial stage of the tournament. The mounting losses have also led to calls for replacing Dhoni with Virat Kohli in the shorter formats ie ODI and the Twenty20 (T20).
Dhoni, at present, is hardly the skipper whose every move used to be a masterstroke. Whether asking Joginder Sharma, a newcomer, to bowl the last over in the 2007 T20 World Cup final or promoting himself ahead of an in-form Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 ODI World Cup final. His captaincy has of late been very uninspiring. He has made some strange moves which defied all logic. In the ODI series against Australia, many are questioning the rationale behind dropping ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin after just two bad games and taking off Ravindra Jadeja from the attack just when he was getting into a good rhythm in the Melbourne encounter.
As a batsman, too, MSD has been struggling. He is unable to score runs at a brisk pace, leaving India 20-30 runs short in the final tally. Over the years, India relied heavily on Dhoni’s firepower towards the slog overs whether setting a target or during a run chase. One of the reasons why India could not bat the opposition out is because Dhoni himself was struggling to time the ball. Though there were some flashes of his old self in Australia but they were not significant enough to give India an edge. And with no Suresh Raina in the squad, India were without a proper finisher, lower down the order and it hurt them in the current series.
Struggling both as a batsman and captain, the chorus to replace Dhoni with the aggressive Kohli is gaining momentum. Ashok Malhotra, former India player and selector, tells Tehelka: “Skipper Kohli has impressed all with his positive and aggressive brand of captaincy (in Test) which is a very good sign for the future of Indian cricket. If one wants to achieve success abroad then one has to be positive and aggressive and then only the results will come. Moreover, it is interesting to note that Kohli’s aggression has rubbed on to other players in the team as well. So in a sense one can say that he has been inspiring.”
V Krishnaswamy, senior sport journalist, tells Tehelka: “It is perhaps time for Dhoni to call it quits. He is actually stretching himself till the T20 World Cup at home. Frankly, MSD has nothing more to prove right now. And one wonders how much motivation he still has it in him to continue. After all he won all trophies as a skipper in his cricketing career, including T20 World Cup in 2007 and ODI World Cup in 2011. Team India is currently the number one in the ICC Test rankings. However, they became the number one Test team under Dhoni first. In a way he was successful and has been a great player. However, I was not happy with the way he left Test cricket mid-way in Australia in 2014. It was not a good move and he not only let the team down but also the next captain. It is time MSD hands over the captaincy to Kohli, who has done well in the Test matches as a skipper. Unlike Dhoni, Kohli has the motivation and hunger to lead the team.”
Former spin legend EAS Prasanna too was quoted as saying that it’s time to anoint Kohli as his successor in all the formats. “I think the time has come to make Kohli captain in all the formats. Dhoni is around 34 now and there has to be a change in captaincy at some point, so why not now?” said Prasanna. “He can keep playing in the team. Ultimately, it is Dhoni who has to take the call. If you ask me, let him keep the wickets and give Kohli the charge right away for the team’s sake.”