Mahendra Singh Dhoni holding aloft the Cup, celebrating the 2007 World T20 triumph was the first visual played at the launch of the 2016 edition on Friday. It was natural to expect that the man who is set to lead India in the March-April tournament at home for the first time be part of the event.
However, Dhoni’s absence was conspicuous. He was instead playing the Vijay Hazare one-day game for Jharkhand in Karnataka.
Earlier, there was speculation he might come for the event if the Indian board/International Cricket Council sent him tickets, but his manager Arun Pandey confirmed to HT that Dhoni wanted to play the Vijay Hazare match.
Pandey clarified there was no misunderstanding and for the India limited-overs skipper playing a game is always the priority. Also, game time is more valuable now because of the long gap after the one-day series against South Africa since Dhoni has retired from Tests.
The spotlight on Friday centred on the three India stars, Test captain Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. The latter is also part of the Delhi team in the Vijay Hazare, but made time to be part of the panel discussion on the tournament. Rahane has opted out of the first couple of matches while Kohli has chosen to rest.
Kohli somewhat filled in Dhoni’s absence by praising the T20 legend and how he has always looked up to him for inspiration since his emergence as a fine leader of men by winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007.
“It (2007 World T20) was virtually the launch of Dhoni, the captain. The way he expressed his tactics on the field, the way he led a very young team on the world stage. From there on, he became this big figure in terms of captaincy in world cricket. His captaincy was praised all over and he became the figure of recognition for Indian cricket all over,” said Kohli.
Having served valuable time as Dhoni’s understudy in both Tests and limited-overs cricket, Kohli also talked about the qualities of his senior that impressed him.
“He has set the bar as far as captaincy is concerned. He has won everything possible in the game. There is nothing he has left to achieve for any other captain. His ability to not panic in pressure situations is something that I would definitely like to learn from him. I have been noticing what he does in certain situations and that definitely helps because he is one of the finest captains in the sport,” stated Kohli.
It is the first World T20 at home and expectations will be high, though Kohli played down the favourites’ tag.
“It’s not such a big home advantage anymore and especially with formats like T20 where the cricket is so quick. So any team could be a favourite.