Mahendra Singh Dhoni acknowledged on Friday that split captaincy isn’t suited for India and he thought it was the best time to allow Virat Kohli to assume leadership of the India cricket team in all three formats.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who took India to a record 27 wins as Test skipper before his abrupt retirement in the longest format, stepped down as ODI and T20 captain on January 4.
Hindustan Times had then reported he did not voluntarily step down but was asked to give up captaincy by the selectors to allow Virat Kohli to grow into the role as India build-up for the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
In his first news conference since giving up limited-overs captaincy, in Pune on Friday ahead the first One-day International against England, MS Dhoni said: “Split captaincy doesn’t work in India. It was the right time for me to move on. The Indian team under Virat Kohli will be the most successful team ever.”
Rise of Virat Kohli
Kohli became Test captain after Dhoni abruptly retired during the 2014-15 Test series in Australia. It paved the way for split captaincy, but India didn’t get favourable results in the shorter formats after that. They lost in the semi-finals in both the 2015 World Cup in Australia and in the 2016 World Twenty20 at home.
Virat Kohli, however, has built a robust Test side. India have won 14 of the 22 Tests he has led in so far, emerging victorious in five series in a row.
Had BCCI continued with dual captaincy till the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni would be 38. And with Kohli in great form with the bat, and unmatched while chasing in limited-overs cricket to reveal his grit under pressure, it would have been unfair to keep him away from captaincy in all formats.
Dhoni wants to continue playing. He is already trying to give up his role as a finisher and bat higher at No. 4. Not staying on as skipper will give him the freedom to focus on his batting.
Dhoni’s captaincy legacy
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy, however, has left behind a legacy which is unparalleled in Indian cricket. He captained India to three global trophies, the 2007 World T20, 2011 World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy, set an Indian record of 27 wins as Test skipper and guided it to No 1 in the ICC rankings in 2009.
Virat Kohli thus has huge shoes to fill as captain across formats. Asked whether Kohli, under whom India have risen to become the No 1 Test side, Dhoni felt Kohli could surpass his achievements.
“It depends on the numbers. I think Virat will win more games than me in all the formats. When it comes to how cricket is played, the whole pool (of players) seems to be playing the way it is supposed to be.
“It doesn’t seem like some individuals may break the laws on the field. They have played in pressure situations, in knockout tournaments. We have played a lot of Test matches in India, where there were no easy games. In the end, the games were really closer than what the scorecard predicted.
“I firmly believe this will be the team that will rewrite history. They will do something special in the coming years. Just hoping no injuries or serious problems to the core members of the side,” Dhoni said.
No split captaincy
Mahendra Singh Dhoni said even before the home ODI series defeat against South Africa in late 2015, when his leadership was heavily criticised, he had realised split captaincy didn’t work in India.
“To cut a long story short, in my mind the last series was the South Africa series in India. Right from the start, when I left Test captainship, I knew split captaincy doesn’t work in our set up.
“I was waiting for the right time. I wanted to ease him (Kohli) into the Test format. With so many games, he is right there. It is just the timing. I feel this team has the potential to do well in all the formats, irrespective of where we are playing.
“This team has the potential to win games more than any other captain or team has won. You look at the kind of talent and the age-group they are in, if everything goes well, they can play well for the next 10 or 12 years.
“If a few of them get injured, you are not in a dilemma who is the strike bowler. It goes across formats. It gives the team the opportunity. With the Champions Trophy in England, I felt it was the right time to move on. A lot of people were like why I quit (Test captaincy) mid-series. It’s important to look at the bigger picture. Since (Wriddhiman) Saha was there, he gets a chance to get one game in Australia. Virat also has the same kind of exposure,” said Dhoni.
Virat’s unofficial deputy
After having led India for almost a decade, will it be easy to give up the leadership? Dhoni feels he will anyway be Virat’s unofficial deputy.
“I think the wicket-keeper is always the vice-captain of the side, irrespective of whether he is made vice-captain or not. In this scenario, I will have to keep a close eye on what the skipper wants, what his preferential field positions are. I already had this chat with Virat about how he likes his fielders, where he wants them to be. That will have to be a change (for me). All of that I have to adapt.
“But overall nothing much changes. I will be there to offer my suggestions when required. Over the years, we have built a relationship where I can give him hundreds of ideas and he is comfortable rejecting all of them. It is not necessary that whatever I say has to be implemented. He is the captain and the onus of his decisions is on him. That is how it should be.”
England and India will play three ODIs starting with the first game in Pune on Sunday. The series will be followed by three T20s.