First Day of The Rest of His Time: MS Dhoni Leads ‘Newbies’ vs Zim
MS Dhoni will be up against new challenges in India’s tour of Zimbabwe, which begins on Saturday.
These days, every time MS Dhoni steps into a press conference, one question gets inevitably thrown in his direction. His future has been the subject of consistent speculation and over the last few months Dhoni has countered it with irritation, humour and quite often, a dead bat. He understands it is a professional hazard.
And so it was as he fronted up at the Indian team’s
media interaction before boarding the flight for a short tour of Zimbabwe that
features three ODIs and three T20 internationals. Dhoni’s response was calibrated,
expected and entirely predictable.
It’s only a brief period where you can actually represent your country and that’s the biggest motivation for me. More than what you’ve achieved in your career, the fact that you are representing your country motivates you.MS Dhoni
On Saturday, when he steps on to the field at the
helm of what is essentially an India ‘A’ team, Dhoni will know this is the
first day of the rest of his grand career. He will find himself in an
unfamiliar dressing room, surrounded by younger men eager to make the
opportunity count, even as he ponders his future.
Dhoni, with the experience of 275 ODIs over a decade long career behind him will lead a squad with a combined experience of 83. Not one to seek succour in reputation, he concedes he will be judged, and will judge himself, on the here and now.
I am 35 right now, and I know the day I’m not able to run as fast as I’m running right now, I know the guns where they are coming from. Form will keep going up and down. You can’t control that, but fitness is very important. At this point of time, my only concern is fitness, but so far it has been good.MS Dhoni
The surround sound isn’t lost on Dhoni. A
readymade replacement exists in the short-formats as well in Virat Kohli. The call
for Kohli’s elevation has been endorsed by the man who till recently was part
of the set-up as team director: Ravi Shastri. With the Champions Trophy in
England less than a year away why not ease the heir-apparent into the job now?
Adept at spotting a smoking gun when he sees one, Dhoni skillfully avoided contributing his fuel to that fire.
It’s not like I am not enjoying the game. But it’s a decision that BCCI will take. It’s not up to me to decide that.MS Dhoni
While captain Dhoni has lost some his aura and
batsman Dhoni some of his menace, wicket-keeper Dhoni remains very much
unchallenged in the role. None of the obvious replacements - Wriddhiman Saha,
Naman Ojha or Parthiv Patel – have made collar-grabbing impressions, forcing
the national selectors to look at a left-field option.
The touring party in Zimbabwe includes KL Rahul,
who made an eye-catching impact in the IPL. Not only did he unveil a
previously unseen power game that fetched him nearly 400 runs in the season, he
also embraced the opportunity to keep wickets for the Royal Challengers
The occasional gaffe apart, Rahul, who has kept
wickets regularly since his time in junior cricket, put in quite an assured display.
He is now being viewed seriously as a viable long-term option to replace Dhoni
when the moment arrives. Recognising the door it opens for him in an otherwise
clogged Indian limited overs outfit, Rahul is eager to continue developing in
the position, under the watchful eyes of a skilled master of the craft.
I will have to work a little harder. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I will get some time with MS Dhoni again in Zimbabwe, and my plan would be to work with him on my wicket-keeping skills and see what feedback he has.KL Rahul
Once the jamboree in Zimbabwe winds up, India
will begin an extended period where Test cricket, the format Dhoni is retired
from, dominating the itinerary. Starting in July, India will play 17 Test
matches against West Indies, New Zealand, England, Australia and Bangladesh
over nine months.
Sprinkled in between are a mere 8 ODIs and 3
T20Is, leaving quite clearly, very few opportunities for MS Dhoni sightings.
It remains anyone’s guess what this time holds for an all time great of the game.
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