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Dhoni, who stepped down from captaincy just before the ODI series, was seen heading to the pitch during nets ahead of Kolkata ODI Getty Images (File Photo)

He may have relinquished the captaincy of the Indian cricket team in limited-overs contests, but MS Dhoni still plays a proactive role in the team affairs as he on Saturday performed the leadership role, including inspecting the pitch, ahead of the third and final ODI against England to be played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. The Indian cricket team went in for an optional practice on Saturday and Dhoni was seen doing what normally a skipper does inspecting the Eden Gardens pitch, taking local feedbacks and giving his teammates a pep talk with captain Virat Kohli deciding to skip the training session and head coach Anil Kumble not around.

After the practice session that lasted for about two hours, Dhoni, who stepped down from captaincy just before the ODI series, was seen heading to the pitch that looked as flat as it can be without any tinge of grass. He went down on his knees to have a close look at the strip and felt the surface by placing both his palms. In Dhoni’s esteemed company was national selector and former Bengal captain Devang Gandhi, with whom the Jharkhand dasher had a lengthy discussion afterwards. In India’s 15-run win over England in the second ODI, Dhoni was seen playing a proactive role behind the stumps, as he was seen making the field placements and giving his inputs to Kohli during the run chase of the visiting team.

Full Cricket Scorecard, India vs England, 3rd ODI at Kolkata

Hailing Dhoni’s new-found role, India seamer Bhuvenshwar Kumar said that a wicketkeeper is always the second person after captain to assess the match condition and give inputs. “He (Dhoni) watches everything closely. He gives feedback how a batsman is playing. When skipper Virat is fielding, it’s always easy for Dhoni to communicate his ideas on what can we do. It’s very useful when your wicketkeeper becomes proactive,” Kumar was quoted as saying said at the pre-match press conference by a PTI report.

Apart from Kohli, the ones to skip the match-eve optional practice session included Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya. In absence of Kumble, batting coach Sanjay Bangar oversaw the practice session.

Meanwhile, Shikhar Dhawan, who had an injury scare on Saturday and went to a hospital for medical examination, was seen at the nets without any sign of injury. “He’s perfectly fine,” the report quoted a team official, making it clear that Dhawan is available for selection. However, it remains to be seen whether the team think-tank persists with Dhawan who has been out of sorts in his form with scores of 1 and 11 in the last two ODIs. Ajinkya Rahane, who may come in the playing eleven if Dhawan is to be replaced, had a full intensity practice session.