Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his first public appearance after stepping down as India’s limited overs captain but was still the most sought after on Monday as India ‘A’ had an intense training session at the Brabourne Stadium ahead of the first warm-up match against England.
Considering Tuesday’s match will be Dhoni’s last as captain of a representative Indian side, as usual he went about his business without any fuss.
Emotion is the last thing one would expect on Dhoni’s face. There was no change visible in his demeanor, after the weight of captaining India’s limited-overs sides was taken off his shoulders last week.
He was amongst the first to come out for the practice session at the iconic Brabourne Stadium. As the rest of the squad members went about playing a customary football match, Dhoni too joined in, emerging the lone goal-scorer.
Old habits die hard. After captaining India for nine years, Dhoni monitored the net session for around 30 minutes before finally padding up for a stint in the nets that lasted for close to two hours under lights.
Dhoni faced the spinners first up for about 30 minutes. He began with some rock solid defence before unleashing his brute power to clear the ropes at will.
While there were a few slog sweeps, Dhoni tried to play as straight as possible. The occasional mishits and inside edges frustrated Dhoni, but overall he timed the ball to perfection.
He then switched over to the adjacent nets to face the pace bowlers. There was no change in his approach even when he moved to the third net, where spinners and pace bowlers operated in tandem.
England skipper Eoin Morgan lauded Dhoni’s captaincy. “MS is a very, very good captain. His leadership in 2011 (World Cup) was exceptional and his record speaks for itself. Until you’re a captain, you don’t know how things are going to go. Nobody knows. I think Virat (Kohli) has a little bit of an advantage that he’s captain of the Test team now,” he told reporters.
In Kohli’s first reaction after taking over the limited-overs captaincy, he hoped Dhoni would bat higher up and play more freely. “It is a win-win situation for the new captain coming in. Still having him for advice, for inputs, for the cricketing brain that he has; but I am really happy and pleased that he would be able to play freely. He would be able to express himself as the aggressive MS Dhoni we knew when he came into the team,” Kohli told the BCCI website.
However, the way Dhoni went about his business on Monday, it looked like he will take on the job of finishing games despite being relieved from captaincy duties.
In between his net sessions, Dhoni waved to former India team director, Ravi Shastri, who dropped in at the Cricket Club of India with his daughter. After finishing his net session, Dhoni obliged waiting fans with selfies and autographs before dashing off to have his special tea and chaat that CCI had arranged on his request.