Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dhoni Out, Kohli In

The king is dead, long live the King.

Full on disclosure: I am a Dhoni fan. So while I am trying to be objective, it might inherently be biased.

A lot of blame has been put on Dhoni for being a defensive captain. I would suggest that a team that does not have the ability to pick up 20 wickets in a test match cannot talk of being aggressive. I believe Dhoni put the team's interest front and center and not his personal ambitions. Who wouldn't want to have wins against his name. Take the Adelaide game. Everyone is gung-ho about Kohli's aggressive attempt to win the test match. Consider what he had to lose: If India won, he would have firmly staked his claim on captaincy and won the admiration of billion(s) of fans with his win overseas. If he lost, oh well, he was the standby captain anyways. Imagine if we were able to draw the match. Do not get me wrong, we should have gone for the win. But there was a stage where we are at the middle order and reaching the target seemed a tall order. This is where Kohli should have dug in his heels and played for a draw. The greatest standard of captaincy is to be aggressive, yet flexible (and practical). Kohli's famous declaration that the thought of playing for a draw did not even enter his mind is not a strength but a hint of weakness. He has preconceived notions of how the match will progress and does not want to course correct on the way.

Seeing him play his game, I believe Kohli is playing for himself. Yes, captaincy (and responsibility) brought out the best in him. But the bigger challenge for a captain is to bring out the best in the team. Can he do that? Example: Yes - Rahane and Kohli had a great partnership in the 1st innings for the 3rd test at Melbourne, but it was amply clear that Rahane was very disturbed with the developments in the middle of the field. Also, for a boisterous Aussie team that was subdued by the loss of their own, this jarring sledging and posturing could have been avoided.

Finally, Dhoni's retirement: Lot of critics are questioning his resignation from the long form of the game in the middle of the series. But isn't it true that he has given Kohli another chance at captaincy in a already decided series with very little but pride to play for. He could have continued under Kohli's captaincy but as a man who gives his fullest, it might have some conflicting and disastrous consequences playing under the captain (in waiting) who wants it all.

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