With due respect to MS Dhoni, it’s time to pass the baton to Virat Kohli in limited-overs cricket

With due respect to MS Dhoni, it’s time to pass the baton to Virat Kohli in limited-overs cricket

Virat kohli with MS Dhoni
Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. (© Getty Images)

India have done well in the Test series against New Zealand at home. Virat Kohli led the team from the front as they whitewashed the hapless Kiwis to continue their unbeaten streak in Tests. However, Kohli will be handing over the baton back to Mahendra Singh Dhoni once the Test series ends and the two teams get ready for a five-match one-day series beginning on October 16.

Here comes the important question: Isn’t it time to hand over the one-day and T20 captaincy too to Kohli – the most happening player of Indian cricket at the moment? At the moment, India are choosing an older player to lead their one-day and T20 missions while the younger one is in charge of the Test outfit. Isn’t it an irony of sorts?

Dhoni has been fabulous as a limited-over captain

There is little reason to criticise MS Dhoni as the captain, given the glory India have seen in limited-over cricket under his captaincy. Two World Cup wins (one of which came outside Asia), winning both one-day and T20 series in Australia, beating South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in T20 series, winning one-day series abroad, whitewashing teams a number of times… the list is endless.

Statistics show that Dhoni is the most successful captain in limited-over cricket that India has produced. In one-day internationals, he has led India in 194 matches, earning them victory in 107 (lost in 72, tied in four while 11 games were inconclusive) with a success rate of 59.56 per cent. Dhoni’s winning numbers are 17 more than the nearest to him – Mohammad Azharuddin but the latter’s record mostly blossomed in Asia.

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Dhoni’s captaincy records are as good as Tendulkar’s batting records

In terms of quantity, Dhoni is just six short of leading in 200 games (only he, Azhar and Sourav Ganguly with 146 games have led India in more than 100 one-day matches). But unlike Azhar and Ganguly, Dhoni also has the distinction of leading India in 72 T20 games as well (41 wins, 28 losses, one tie and two inconclusive games).

It effectively means Dhoni has been the skipper in 266 games and steered them to victory in 148 of those (success percentage of 55.63). In fact, with 27 victories in 60 Tests, Dhoni has been India’s most successful captain in the longest format of the game as well.

So, as far as the history of India’s cricket captaincy is concerned, Dhoni has a place of his own and will continue to do so for years to come. Just like Sachin Tendulkar’s batting records, Dhoni’s captaincy records will not be eclipsed any time soon by any Indian.

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But Dhoni isn’t getting younger

But it also can’t be denied that at 35, Dhoni isn’t getting any younger. The man, who has been one of India’s most prolific wicketkeeper-batsmen and one of best finishers of the game, a remarkable athlete – has not been able to achieve success at the rate he is known for – in the last few series that India have played.

India have not really done well under Dhoni of late

Ever since India defeated their Asian opponents Sri Lanka 5-0 at home in 2014/15, the graph of their performance has been ordinary, even under Dhoni. They failed to make the finals in a tri-series in Australia in 2015, lost their world champs’ crown to Australia soon after, even lost to Bangladesh 1-2, got defeated by South Africa 3-2 at home and lost 1-4 to the Australians Down Under.

Dhoni’s only success in the recent times came against Zimbabwe on their soil (India won 3-0). But that isn’t really Dhoni-like, is it? Even the way the skipper failed to guide his team to a historic victory against the Caribbeans in a T20 game played recently in the United States (India chased 245 runs in 20 overs but lost the match by 1 run), it sparks questions about his diminishing ability, thanks to ageing reflexes.

Considering all that why shouldn’t the selectors shift the gear early and allow Dhoni to have a smooth exit? It will be a befitting farewell to a man who has taken us to great heights while he is still fit enough to deliver.

Finding a replacement for Dhoni isn’t a tough question

Had there been a problem of choice in replacing Dhoni, it would have still made some sense. Like in the late 1990s, the swinging of the skipper’s chair between Azharuddin and Tendulkar really looked hilarious until Sourav Ganguly took over as a fresh candidate.

Today, finding an alternative isn’t a challenge anymore. For, there is already a Kohli who has been doing well in the longest format of the game. He has everything in him to become a successful captain – the passion, aggression and the hunger – something Ganguly had displayed during his days. In fact, if Kohli is picked as the captain now, it won’t be a tough ask to find his deputy either – for there is Ajinkya Rahane.

That Kohli is an able captain has been on display in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Apart from the fact that he has scored consistently for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he also showed great leadership in this year’s edition by taking his team into the final from nowhere.

Though he could not have the last laugh against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, but Kohli’s captaincy became a memory to cherish, for all Indian cricket lovers. So why not make him the captain in all three formats of the game?

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Kohli should start leading in limited overs well before the next World Cup

A prime reason to make Kohli the captain in limited-overs cricket is the next World Cup – to be held in England in 2019. Dhoni will be 38 by then and in the English conditions, he is unlikely to be the same force he was five years ago.

And we don’t really want to see him going down like Arjuna Ranatunga, the then reigning champion, in the 1999 World Cup which was also played in the swinging conditions of England. And it would be of little significance if Kohli is made the skipper just ahead of the big event.

Kohli hasn’t done enough as one-day captain yet but he has already whitewashed opponents twice

Speaking of Kohli’s own record as a captain in the one-day matches, he hasn’t had much of an opportunity so far. He has led in 17 matches and won in 14 of them (lost in three including a heart-breaking 1-wicket loss to Pakistan in an Asia Cup game).

But he has already tested two series whitewashes against Zimbabwe (away) and Sri Lanka (home) – something that speaks volumes about his killer instincts. And in the 5-0 annihilation against Sri Lanka, Kohli was also picked as the man of the tournament – something which shows that captaincy is not a burden for batsman Kohli.

Just like wicketkeeping was hardly a problem for skipper Dhoni during his long tenure. Kohli, however, hasn’t led India in T20 internationals yet but his record in the IPL guarantees that it won’t be a problem for the dashing right-handed batsman either.

Hence, Kohli is a perfect man in the waiting for Dhoni, India’s most successful captain till date, to hand over the responsibility. But everything depends on the timing of the transition. While we would like bid Dhoni a perfect adieu, we would also like to see that the glorious run continues uninterrupted – through the ushering in of the Kohli era.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal views and opinions of the author.