With India selecting an inexperienced squad for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe, the spotlight will be on many of the young guns who have been selected for their maiden tour.
However, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will face even more scrutiny during the 12-day tour due to question marks over his captaincy in limited-overs cricket.
A woeful Indian Premier League season, where his side Rising Pune Supergiants struggled all through the tournament to finish second from the bottom in the points table while the Virat Kohli-captained Royal Challengers Bangalore made it to the final has only made the clamour for Dhoni to relinquish captaincy in favour of Kohli louder.
However, the man in the eye of the storm has no intention to voluntarily step aside.
“It’s not like I’m not enjoying the game. But it’s a decision that the BCCI will take. It’s not up to me to decide that,” Dhoni told reporters a day before the team heads out to Zimbabwe.
Dhoni added that while he has no control over his form, his emphasis was on maintaining fitness.
“The day I’m not able to run as fast as I am right now, I’ll know where the guns will be coming from. I’ve to keep myself more fit so that fitness is not an issue. Form will keep going up and down. You can’t control that. I’m not a fast bowler so the kind of demand on my body is different. So, I feel I’ve to be very fit,” the 34-year-old added.
The tour of Zimbabwe is being used by the selectors to test India’s bench strength. Dhoni, however, requested the selectors to pick him for the tour, possibly keeping in mind the limited ODIs and T20s India will play in the next year.
The loudest call for Dhoni to step aside as captain though has come from former India team director Ravi Shastri, who has thrown his weight behind Test skipper Kohli.
Shastri believes Kohli taking over as skipper in all formats will be “in the interest of Indian cricket”.
Interestingly, Shastri is a front-runner to become India’s next national coach with BCCI preferring candidates who can communicate in Hindi.
“It is desirable to communicate in Hindi and other regional languages,” the BCCI has said in its advertisement inviting applications for the head coach.
Dhoni, however, believes that rather than language, India’s next coach should understand Indian culture.
“I think there is no big problem with communication. As you have seen with the kind of players coming in, English is not a big barrier. I feel, speaking in Hindi can be a criterion, but it can’t be the only criteria. What is important from a team’s perspective is what it needs.”
“One of the most important things is that they understand our culture. More than speaking Hindi or English, the candidate who understands our culture and our upbringing will be better with us. In the past too, these things have been important — when coaches have understood these things better, there has been a difference on the ground,” Dhoni said.