Clarke's injury and Dhoni's poor run brings succession planning in sharp focus

There is no clear successor to the captaincy of Michael Clarke (second from left) and MS Dhoni (second from right) as Australia and India endure the painful process of rebuilding. Getty Images

Michael Clarke’s hamstring injury could be a huge blow for Australia if he isn’t fit to play the Boxing Day Test match against Sri Lanka. Australia’s bowling is depleted with injuries to frontline pacemen and the last thing they want is a frontline batsman and captain to be sidelined.

Australia are known to groom their future captains. But the possibility of Clarke missing the second Test against Lanka could expose them as there is no clear option to step into Clarke’s shoes. Shane Watson, as the deputy, is the immediate answer, but given his history of fitness issues, Watson cannot be seen as a long-term solution.

Michael Hussey is experienced, but he is in the twilight zone of his career. The selectors need to be bold enough and look at someone young like David Warner as Clarke’s successor.

India, too, find themselves with similar problems with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy coming under intense fire and no clear option available to replace the present captain. Australia’s rebuilding has come a long way, but India’s restructuring is still at ground level, with a long pain passage ahead. Dhoni could survive the heat, if only to give some more time to Virat Kohli, who is seen as the best bet to take over the leadership reins.

Kohli is young, aggressive and has the requisite qualities to make him the ideal candidate to succeed Dhoni. But that time is not now. The 24-year-old has established himself in the shorter formats of the game, but he is yet to make a mark in Test cricket after making debut against Australia last year. He is a critical  component in India’s rebuilding process, which cannot afford to suffer damage. It makes sense that Kohli finds his feet at the Test level, which is way different from One-Day Internationals and T20 Internationals.

India cannot afford to waste time in giving the captaincy job to someone else. There has to be a well laid-out plan and proper execution. Dhoni’s top competitors for the job like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, 34 and 31 year old respectively and struggling to retain their respective spots in the Indian team.

Clarke has good four to five years of international cricket left. Australia should groom Warner under Clarke, much like Clarke was groomed under Ricky Ponting. The process of grooming cannot be underestimated.

The importance of succession planning cannot be underestimated. Failure to plan would mean getting into the kind of mess that India, cricket finds itself in.  

(Devarchit Varma is a cricket fanatic who finds nothing more exciting to do than to write, watch or talk about the sport. Having played the game at club and college level, he now pursues his passion as a scribe)