Gloves Off

IPL 9 a chance for Dhoni to prove himself over Kohli

The Indian captain's leadership will be watched closely once again.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   10-04-2016
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If the mercury is rising, the Indian Premier League can't be far behind. As the ninth edition of the world's premier franchise cricket competition began in Mumbai on Saturday, one got a peep into what lies ahead in the 50-day long carnival.

There are several changes this time, the most notable being the suspension of Chennai Super Kings - a true marquee team - and Rajasthan Royals. For those used to seeing Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin in the CSK yellow bring on the magic, this was the start of a new journey.

Also read - What to (and what not to) expect in IPL 2016

The players have themselves said over the last two months how playing for a new franchise will be different.

That's understandable, as having been part of a winning unit and then forced to part ways, it will take time for the players and fans to relate to a redistribution of players donning different colours.

Indeed, a lot of attention in this edition will be on Dhoni, Gujarat Lions captain Suresh Raina and the rock star of world cricket Virat Kohli. When the IPL began in 2008, Dhoni took on the job of leading CSK in his own style.

chennai-super-kings-_041016121900.jpg The Chennai Super Kings will be missed.

He had the personnel at his disposal, a motivational coach in Stephen Fleming and a passionate team owner in N Srinivasan.

Such was the CSK domination, despite the highs and lows on and off the field; they remained a fighting fit unit till 2015. Winning the title twice made Dhoni the super captain.

Nine years ago, Dhoni was seen battling teams which had marquee players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman.

As he went about moulding CSK into a winning unit, he had players who could deliver almost at the press of a button.

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If Raina was the man he turned to for quick runs, he could rely on Jadeja, a true all-rounder in the IPL, Dwayne Bravo and Ashwin.

It's a new journey for Dhoni in the IPL and he piloted the Pune campaign against Mumbai in style. There is no denying the fact that for a new side to click against seasoned teams like Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore will not be easy. As an IPL player who had made winning a habit, Dhoni is aware he needs to shape the destiny of his side with the resources at his disposal.

The Pune side features an assortment of players like Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith, Ishant Sharma, Faf du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane and Ashwin among others. On paper, this side cannot be straightaway looked at as a champion combine and will need time to settle down.

Dhoni has picked virtually unknown players in the past and made them fire on the big stage, and his leadership will be watched closely once again. The old Pune side was high on hype and low on hope when Sourav Ganguly was part of the outfit. Dhoni has the task of proving his own credentials with the bat in the IPL, though there is no doubting his pedigree behind the stumps.

Also read - Everybody loves IPL, can't the thrill quench Maharashtra's thirst?

At the other end, we have Virat Kohli is the leader of a strong RCB side. As a side which has a rich collection of players, it gains more power with the inclusion of Shane Watson. He is one man who can alone change the course of a contest in the IPL within the space of a few overs.

The world has seen Kohli lead Team India in whites brilliantly with his aggressive approach. At a time when there is a clamour to make the cerebral batsman captain of India in all formats, this edition of the IPL will be a good chance for Kohli to show that he can take the Bangalore side to a new high in the next 50 days.

Kohli will lead from the front and has the arsenal at his disposal to do the damage against most teams. But given the way Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians fought last year to crown themselves champions, it will not be advisable to discount any side. For that matter, Gautam Gambhir-led Kolkata Knight Riders and the new-look Delhi Daredevils will also be keen to go full tilt.

The best way for Kohli to snatch the captaincy away from Dhoni in the shorter formats is to ensure Royal Challengers Bangalore come through like a champion side. That will leave no room for further debate.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)


S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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