Why Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri's praise is good news for Dhoni

Ahead of the 2019 World Cup, 'captain cool' has remained in the team purely on merit.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   03-09-2017
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So, MS Dhoni, the marathon man of ODI cricket, is set to continue till the 2019 ICC World Cup. If cricket is described as the theatre of the absurd, Dhoni will figure in it as a prominent figure. Here is a man who has played selfless cricket all his life in all formats.

First seen as a man close to the establishment (N Srinivasan), Dhoni has had to prove himself again and again. It seems like yesterday, just before the ICC World Cup in 2015 in Australia, Dhoni had decided to say goodbye to Test cricket. That was due to the “pressure” from outside.

It has been impossible to read this man’s mind. He was described as the man with the Midas touch. Yet, public memory has been short-lived and spectators myopic, as Dhoni would soon be lambasted for being a nonperforming captain.

In school, we have read about metals being inert. Dhoni, probably, needs to be classified in a different periodic table as someone in that category. Be it brickbats or bouquets, the man who played his 300th ODI last week looks as fresh as a spring flower.

Anyone who says he knows Dhoni is possibly lying. Dhoni is a mystery, Dhoni is an enigma and yes, Dhoni is a marvel. As one who was supposed to be having a blow-hot-blow-cold equation with Ravi Shastri, director, cricket operations, before the last World Cup, the recent quotes from Shastri are surprising.

With Shastri guaranteed the coach’s job till the next ICC World Cup in 2019, all of a sudden, there is the talk of forming a core group of players. Virat Kohli, on current form, status and the power he derives from Indian cricket, is set to be around for the next World Cup.

What came as a pleasant surprise was Shastri talking to a wire service in Sri Lanka. He has praised Dhoni sky high, called him the best wicket-keeper in global cricket at present in the ODI format and someone who brings great value to the team.

Compare and contrast this with last year, when Dhoni quit ODI captaincy, critics said Dhoni’s days were numbered. In sport, as in life, predictability comes with a risk clause attached.

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People seem to have forgotten that all those who said Kohli would do away with Dhoni had no clue about the dynamics inside the dressing room. If Shastri has said Dhoni is an important person in the plan for 2019, Kohli waxed eloquently when the former skipper played his 300th ODI and just fell short of a half century.

Skipper Kohli said Dhoni would be always his captain. We have heard statements like these before as well from other Indian cricketing greats. But to hear the captain and coach praise Dhoni like never before needs to be appreciated. As one who is extremely fit and agile even today and registers a high score on the yo-yo fitness scale, Dhoni stays in the team purely on merit. Behind the stumps, he does not fumble.

A few seasons ago there were cobwebs of uncertainty for Dhoni as regards his own place in the batting order. He was finding it difficult to end matches like before with a flourish and critics blamed it on his inability as a finisher!

Today, Dhoni does not hit those huge sixes like before. Yet, he keeps the scoreboard ticking. His running between the wickets remains praise worthy and he still contributes with the bat.

The point is, post ODI captaincy relinquishment, Dhoni looks calmer. There are no experts now on TV who say he is under scrutiny. Yet, Dhoni is under scrutiny because he will not be guaranteed a place in the team without performance. That privilege was given only to the God of Indian cricket!

It has been a very one-sided series against Sri Lanka, first in the Tests and then the ODIs. The forthcoming winter schedule at home leans more on the ODIs and not the Tests.

With Shastri speaking about India playing at least 40 ODIs before the 2019 World Cup, at least, in one version of cricket, there seems some vision. To speak about Dhoni in good light as an exemplary performer sends out a right message to many players who want to be part of Team India. The biggest message is perhaps for players who want to replace Dhoni as wicketkeeper-batsman.

Still wondering what made Shastri say nice things about Dhoni? Well, it’s never too late to give a superstar and selfless player like Dhoni the credit he deserves for continuing to serve Indian cricket beautifully.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

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Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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