MS Dhoni (left), Virat Kohli (centre) and Suresh Rain (right) © Getty Images
In the aftermath of India’s horrendous tours to England and Australia last year, the calls for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s head intensified. The man who led India to a number of memorable triumphs over the years – including the 2011 World Cup – suddenly found himself in an uneasy situation. Taking a cue from teams like England, Australia and South Africa, some suggested India should employ different captains for different formats – something that may allow a man at the helm to settle into his respective role. However, the question is: Does India have options better than Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take on the mantle?
The horrors of England and Australia only amounted to some people calling for a change in leadership for Test cricket. If the buzz in the cricketing circles is to be believed, there are murmurs that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is considering different captains for the three different formats. While Dhoni would continue to hold the reins in Tests, the youngster Virat Kohli is said to be in the fray for the job in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Suresh Raina’s name is doing the rounds for T20 internationals.
In an earlier article few months ago this writer had opined that India can consider such a system only when Dhoni forsakes one format. Earlier this year, Dhoni had suggested that he may give up one format to prolong his career to the 2015 World Cup. If that materialises, he would give up Test cricket in all probability given the fact that he has a better record in the shorter versions.
The buzz, however, is very different this time around as it is suggested that Dhoni would continue in Tests, while others would take over in the shorter versions. Keeping his possible retirement plans in perspective it would make more sense to persist with in Tests and ODIs, rather than splitting the responsibility. He remains the best man for the job as nobody can handle the pressure of captaining the Indian side as well as him. His cool demeanour and fantastic courage inspires confidence.
It is surprising that Kohli is being suggested as a possible ODI captain. Dhoni hasn’t done anything wrong in that format and instead he is said to be persisted with in Test cricket, where his record has taken a beating. India may have had a few iffy moments in ODIs, but have been decent since the last World Cup and are gradually rebuilding their confidence. There is absolutely no reason for axing him from the role in the said format.
Kohli is certainly India’s future and is certain to take over the responsibility of a leader at some point. However, it may be too early to thrust him into the responsibility as he is only 23 years old. There have been men who have been handed the captaincy at around the same age, but given the dynamics of the Indian team, it would make more sense to allow Kohli to mature more and grow into a better player. He has come a long way from being a brash youngster and he will certainly mature into a perfect candidate for the job in some time.
The case in T20 Internationals is a bit different and Raina’s appointment may help lift some work-load off Dhoni. He has captained India in a few limited overs internationals and has also led the Chennai Super Kings in a few games. A fresh mindset may allow India to plan for the next World T20 and build a new side. Raina could be the man for the job as his credentials in the format are impressive.
The question we must also ask is: In such a scenario, would Dhoni play all the three formats? For now it doesn’t look like he will give up any one. Graeme Smith continues to captain South Africa in Tests and plays under AB de Villiers in ODIs. On the other hand, England had three leaders at one stage – only when two of them weren’t playing the other formats. Being a captain in one format and then playing as a normal player in the other may not be easy to adjust to in the Indian context.
Dhoni may continue in T20 Internationals under Raina, but in ODIs he must continue to lead the way. Currently, there are no other options for Test cricket and a decision there can only be taken once he decides to give it up.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)