The inevitable finally happened and MS Dhoni left the captaincy of India’s limited overs’ side ahead of the England series. While Dhoni himself mentioned in his latest press conference that Virat Kohli is ready to take over the team and will do a good job, the story doesn’t end here.
The former Indian captain will turn 36 this year. Even then he looks exceptionally fit, soon people will start counting his days in international cricket, especially with the likes of Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson knocking the doors of selection committee. But, is team India ready for life beyond Dhoni? Can these players replicate or even come near to Dhoni’s achievements?
Well, not too many players had an impact on Indian cricket like MS Dhoni did. There was a time when India was struggling to find a specialist keeper who could contribute with the bat and all of a sudden emerged a man who could, not only remove the bails with the blink of an eye but was also a clean hitter of the ball and possessed the qualities of an able leader.
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If Adam Gilchrist is the reason why we first associated the word all-rounder with wicket-keepers, Dhoni is the reason why we still continue to do it.
Having retired from Test cricket, India has already found an able replacement in Wriddhiman Saha. While there was never a doubt over his wick-keeping skills, he cleared all the questions over his batting with his performances against West Indies and New Zealand last year.
However, India’s biggest headache will come when Dhoni decides to hang his boot from the limited overs’ cricket. Men in Blue might have a readymade captaincy material in Virat Kohli but it is Dhoni’s batting skills that make him a real asset in the shorter formats.
What are the Options?
Over the years, Dhoni has transformed himself in one of the greatest finishers of the game. Since, India already has a packed top order; the candidate replacing Dhoni should be able to occupy number 6 or 7 spot and must be a clean hitter of the ball.
When we look at the options that India has right now, Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel and Naman Ojha have already entered their thirties while Saha’s batting style doesn’t make him an ideal candidate at number 6 or 7.
This leaves us with two names, KL Rahul and Robin Uthappa with the former making a case for him through superb batting performances. He may be used as a temporary replacement like Rahul Dravid but is not an ideal candidate for the longer run.
In the younger generation we have the likes of Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant but both of them have a lot to learn before they are given the wicket-keeping duties at the international stage. Poor man-management has to be criticized for this as well. Sanju Samson looked a good future prospect but for some reasons has not been groomed properly.
He didn’t keep wickets in all the matches for Kerala in the previous domestic season and Quinton de Kock was given preference over him by Delhi Daredevils in IPL.
Pant on the other hand, has been exceptional with the bat this season. He scored 972 runs in the Ranji trophy at a strike rate of 107 including a triple-century and a 48-ball, record-breaking hundred.
Even though he is a top-order batsman, his batting style makes him an ideal player to bat in the lower-middle order as well. If the 19-year-old can polish his game, he might be the perfect person to replace Dhoni.
As of now, all we can hope is that MS Dhoni continues to entertain us for at least few more years and recreate some old days with Yuvraj Singh. India will take on England in the first ODI on January 15 at Pune. Do join us for all the live scores and updates.