The five-match ODI series against New Zealand seems to be MS Dhoni’s only chance to regain the limelight and stay relevant as a leader in the limited-overs format.
As skipper, Dhoni has won almost everything. But since Virat Kohli took charge in the five-day format, his stature and fortunes of the team have grown. After helping India to the No 1 spot in Tests, Kohli will assume the role of the dependable No 3 in the ODI batting line-up.
For Dhoni, it will be walking on the edge. One slip and his critics will become more vocal with demands of Kohli taking over in all three formats.
It’s now become hard for Dhoni also to ignore Kohli and the shift in power is evident on and off the field. The limited-overs skipper admitted that he is now using Kohli more in devising team tactics and charting the course.
“I have already started using him more; there is more interaction if you watch the game. Two individuals of course will conduct in different ways. You can argue on the theory aspect but practicality is more often than not during the game. You always talk about as to what has to be done now and he’ll give an example. If I’m not on the same page, I’ll explain as to why I think this may not work,” said Dhoni on the eve of the match.
New Zealand are no pushovers in this format and have had a decent run. Dhoni’s problem have been compounded by the fact that the selectors are using this series as an opportunity to test the bench strength by giving rest to R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in view of the long season ahead. With Suresh Raina ruled out and a squad full of fringe players and couple of new faces, team combination will be one of the biggest headaches for the team management.
“It will be good to some extent to see the bench strength and also we’re playing only eight matches before Champions Trophy. Whatever we have in our minds, we can do in these games and see where we’re going,” he said.
Dhoni indicated he might promote himself up the order and this team would allow him that opportunity. With Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane likely to open and Kohli at No 3, Dhoni is the only player with considerable experience in the middle order.
The skipper was confident that even with the main bowlers rested, the team had enough talent to stop the Kiwis batters from taking the game away.
“If you see (Jasprit) Bumrah, he has done really well for us whatever games he’s played. Umesh (Yadav) is there and has pace and has developed his bowling over the years. It’ll be a good chance for him to express himself. Dhawal (Kulkarni) has done consistently well in domestic cricket. Unless you give them a chance, it is difficult to predict how good they will be at the top level,” he said.