Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s prolonged poor form, successive ODI series defeats, a World T20 semifinal exit at home and Virat Kohli’s record-breaking run have sparked a hot debate in the country – should Kohli take over as captain of the limited-overs formats from Dhoni? (Virat Kohli forcing Mahendra Singh Dhoni into cricketing backwaters)
Former team director Ravi Shastri had added fuel to the fire when he told India Today thatDhoni should now play under Kohli in one-day internationals and T20s. Dhoni has been found wanting with the bat and his tactics have, at times, seemed too defensive.
But the selectors have decided to give Dhoni a long rope and gave him the option of going on the tour to Zimbabwe even as the other big stars were rested after a hectic, international schedule. Dhoni, for obvious reasons, said yes promptly and that decision found him answering several tricky questions ahead of the team’s departure. (Sourav Ganguly raises questions on MS Dhoni’s future as India captain)
India play Zimbabwe in three ODIs and three T20s starting June 11. All six matches will be played in Harare. (Dhoni to lead India in Zimbabwe, uncapped Shardul Thakur in Test squad)
TRICKY QUESTIONS FOR MS
Asked for his opinion on the burning question of India’s ODI and T20 captaincy, Dhoni said it was a call that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had to take.
“Any decision about captaincy is something that the BCCI will have to take,” he said at a pre-departure press conference in Mumbai today.
Dhoni had lost his cool with an Australian journalist, who had asked him what his future plans minutes after India had been knocked out of the World T20 by West Indies at the Wankhede.
This time, perhaps humbled by a disastrous IPL campaign with he Rising Pune Supergiansts, Dhoni was more poised and returned to his mundane, dry answers.
The tour of Zimbabwe will be huge challenge for Dhoni, who is looking to reinvent himself after nearly a decade at the helm of Indian cricket. He remains the only captain in history to have won all three ICC events. But his recent failures have been cause for concern – Dhoni failed to get the team past the line in two back-to-back ICC events and oversaw series losses to Bangladesh, South Africa and Australia.
POOR FORM HAUNTING DHONI
Even when India snapped the losing streak with a historic triumph over Australia in the three-match T20 series, Dhoni’s own form continued to haunt him.
Kohli meanwhile did his reputation no harm by leading India to Test series victories over Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Many wondered how Dhoni would motivate himself for a low-profile series weeks after being involved in two high-octane tournaments. But the veteran saw no problems there and insisted that he was fit enough to deliver the results.
“My biggest motivation is representing my country. I’m 35 now and I’ve to be very fit for the kind of work that I have to do,” he said.
Dhoni will be the only regular in a squad of inexperienced players for the Zimbabwe tour. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kohli were rested so they could recuperate ahead of the Test series in West Indies next month.
“I think the series will be a different experience for me, playing with some who will be playing for the first time,” Dhoni admitted.
On prior tours of Zimbabwe, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were handed captaincy responsibilities while Dhoni took time off.