Kiri Dhoni

MS Dhoni once again took the world by storm, this time resigning as India’s One-Day International (ODI) and T20I captain. He has been India’s most successful captain, having led the side to triumphs in ICC World T20, Champions Trophy and the biggest them of all, the ICC World Cup. Dhoni has made himself available for selection which means we may see him play under a new captain. Talking about Dhoni , former India wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani – a veteran of 88 Tests and 49 ODIs, spoke exclusively to CricketCountry about Dhoni’s future in the team, the future captain, an interesting anecdote about the first time he had heard of Dhoni and more.

CricketCountry (CC): What do you make of Dhoni’s decision? Was it the right call?

Syed Kirmani (SK): He has taken the right decision at the right time. Giving an opportunity to Virat Kohli and his young team was important. He has achieved what no captain has done. He has won laurels in all three formats. He has led from the front and won aplenty. No captain of our country has done that consistently.

CC: Would you say that he is the greatest captain India has ever produced?

SK: Yes, the record and the stats say that all.

CC: Do you think Dhoni has a lot to offer to the Indian team as a batsman and a wicketkeeper?

SK: Well, I think he still has another until the coming World Cup [or] 4-5 years to go, I am sure. He is taking care of himself and his physical fitness, but not as far as wicketkeeping is concerned because he had some niggle problems, and a few injuries here and there. As a batsman, as a role model he is the most apt person with all possible credentials of a captain and a leader.

CC: Do you think someone else should take up the wicketkeeping gloves?

SK: I must tell you this. Pranab Roy was the co-selector when I was the chairman of the selection committee. He [Dhoni] is a good fielder also. He been on the field before he could don the gloves for the country.  In Bihar, when I was the chairman, Deep Dasgupta was not being considered by the CAB and the East Zone, Pranab Roy and myself were watching this match. Pranab Roy said there is a wicketkeeper and a batsman, who can replace Dasgupta in the time to come. I said, who is that?  Is he keeping wickets I asked him while the match was in progress. He said no. Then I asked, who are you talking about? He is fielding [at] fine leg, called Dhoni, he said.

Arre Kamaal hai yaar, tum wicketkeeper ki baat kar rahe ho (We are talking about wicketkeepers) and you are saying that he is not keeping wickets and he is fielding in fine leg area, let me have his records, [I said]. I saw his 2 years Ranji Trophy records and he was the highest run-getter in the entire East Zone. I said, just on his batting prowess, he should be taken in the state team straight away, forget his wicketkeeping. From there on, he never looked back. This anecdote, I have never shared or put this on record anywhere. Only witness to this will be Pranab Roy, who was with me at that time.

Without looking into his wicketkeeping abilities, I said, this is the man you should include, he can keep wickets well but is still fielding at fine leg. So, going by this, Dhoni can be on the field whichever position he feels like and he will be a great source of inspiration and motivation to the youngsters.

CC: Which are your favourite MS Dhoni moments?

SK: Well, I suppose the three ICC trophies that he won, those are the moments we appreciated. He has taken the country right on top. These are the moments I would like to cherish. And of course, the winning shot of World Cup in 2011.

CC: Virat Kohli is most likely to be named the captain of the limited-overs. Do you think he is ready to lead India in all three formats?

SK: He is the most fitting player at the moment. He has already been groomed into the Test and now he has to take over the mantle from Dhoni and take a few leaves out of Dhoni‘s book to replicate the success.

CC: There is fierce competition when it comes to the wicketkeeping spot in the Indian Test team. There are Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha, Parthiv Patel and a few others, who are there on the fringes. Who do you see getting a long-term opportunity to represent India in Tests?

SK: Well, the difference between these wicketkeepers is minuscule. Whoever lives up to the consistency will be considered. I suppose this was a blessing in disguise for Parthiv Patel  after Saha was injured. He capitalised on this opportunity and he did exceptionally well behind the stumps and lived up to his batting abilities. So, he should be continued.

At the same time, whoever is there in the frame, Naman Ojha is there, Saha is again there in the frame, Dinesh Karthik is also there. It can be rotated between these guys. Whoever is in top form, should be considered because there is a fierce competition among the players right now. Consistency will be the key.