When a young and inexperienced Mahendra Singh Dhoni took over from Rahul Dravid as the captain of the Indian team, Indian cricket was undergoing a rough patch. After being eliminated from the World Cup 2007 in the group stages, with the fans furious, the BCCI promised to revive Indian cricket.
A fresh coach, a few old names shown the door and some newer faces in the dressing room was what the critics were asking for. But when an unlikely choice in Dhoni was handed the reins of the national team, the doomsayers lambasted the cricket board, with predictions of the downfall of Indian cricket. But six years on, India has turned into a cricketing force.
As he often does, MS Dhoni had his own ideas. A man who lives in the moment, Dhoni prefers to go by his natural instinct and gut feeling over sticking to pre-defined plans.
His extraordinary ability to read the game has been crucial in many wins. With World T20, the CB series, the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the ICC World Cup and the Champions Trophy all under his belt, he has led Indian cricket to scale loftier heights than any captain had ever done before him.
The man with the Midas touch. For fans, Dhoni could do nothing wrong. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the greatest captain cricket has ever seen. But fickle as fans are, a few poor results and the knight in shining armour turns into enemy number one. And as India went through a rough run of results, the name of Virat Kohli was proposed as the one to dethrone the erstwhile saviour of Indian cricket. With every result that went against India, the chorus backing Kohli got louder and louder. Even when Dhoni managed to steer the side back on track, the call for Virat to lead lived on.
Kohli, aside from being an exceptionally talented batsman is a passionate and youthful player who brings energy to the side. So with fans on either side having legitimate reasons to back their call for captaincy, let’s take a look at how the spirited Virat fares against Captain Cool.
1.Heat vs Composure
Kohli is very expressive and doesn’t believe in keeping his feelings to himself. Dhoni is a picture of composure no matter what the team finds itself in. While Kohli’s aggression can be good to an extent, he has, in the past, got into hot water for swearing at fans. While, MSD’s composure and level-headed thinking even under severe pressure has been invaluable for India.
2. The test of harsher waters
It is one thing to whitewash Zimbabwe but quite another to captain the side against stronger opponents. Kohli’s performance as captain against Zimbabwe, while important, can hardly be compared to Dhoni’s leadership against England, Australia, Sri Lanka and in the World tournaments.
3. The pressure sponge
There are captains who take the pressure off team mates and onto themselves, and there are those who let the team face the heat. Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Dhoni has time and again delivered when it matters most.
Kohli is yet to be tested under pressure at the senior level. But given Kohli’s hot-headedness, it is difficult to see how he would take the pressure off his team mates.
Plus, it is unsure if he can continue his batting form if he is burdened with the responsibility of captaincy. All the more reason to maintain status quo.
4. The Unconventional and the Unorthodox
With Dhoni, always expect the unexpected. Never a man to stick by a single plan, Dhoni rode his luck to be the captain he is today. Always willing to take a gamble, to trust his gut feeling, his risks have paid rich dividends for India. In case of any doubt, look at the trophy cabinet.
Kohli, on the other hand, appears to be a more conventional and traditional style of captain. While that is not bad in itself, he might struggle as a captain if he finds himself in unfamiliar territory but given Dhoni’s style of captaincy, that is precisely the kind of situation he thrives in.
5. The man-manager
Dhoni has received accolades for his captaincy by several of his senior team-mates including the Little Master, who has declared Dhoni to be the best captain he has played under.
Coming from someone who has played for 23 years, that is some compliment. In the past, Dhoni has stood up and borne the heat when the team was struggling. But when the team does well, he stands back to allow his team mates take the credit. That coupled with the faith he displays in his teammates, makes him an exceptional leader for the side.
Kohli, again has little experience in this, so there is little that can be said about him, but in the meanwhile, he can certainly learn from Dhoni.
While Kohli is a promising candidate for the captain’s job for the future, he is not quite prepared to replace MS Dhoni. Not yet anyway.
Do not write Dhoni’s epitaph just yet. But when the day for that comes, India will have a tough time finding someone who could fill in his shoes.