Mahendra Singh Dhoni must have a very good reason to be still around the team despite being ruled out of the ongoing tri-series in the Caribbean. Dhoni has been seen on television in each of the two games India played without the services of the regular captain.
The recent Champions Trophy-winning skipper is not even in the tour party to tour Zimbabwe, hence his decision to stay on is stranger. It is learnt that Dhoni had backed out of the tour in advance.
He suffered a hamstring injury while batting against the West Indies in Jamaica on June 30. A few pundits reckon Dhoni’s presence will not help stand-in captain Virat Kohli discharge his duties with freedom and thus be his own man.
As it is, Kohli was not named officially as vice-captain in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s communication to the media. This decision borders on the ridiculous because the naming of the deputy is necessary for an away series.
Friday’s win over West Indies, caused by Kohli’s 14th ODI hundred put India back in contention for the tri-series after losing their first two games to West Indies and Sri Lanka respectively.
Ian Chappell, who was Bill Lawry’s vice-captain before he got the top job for the seventh Test of the 1970-71 Ashes series, felt Kohli would be better off without Dhoni’s presence.
“For a one-day series I don’t think it’s so important for the captain to be around and in fact it’s probably best if Kohli is left to run the team the way he sees fit. It would be different if it was a Test series,” Chappell told SUNDAY MiD DAY from Sydney.
Ajit Wadekar too felt Dhoni’s presence would put additional pressure on Kohli. “Sub-consciously, there would be extra pressure on Kohli. The players will look up to Dhoni because of what he has achieved. I don’t think he should be around,” said Wadekar.
To his credit, Dhoni has not allowed fitness issues to come in the way of his appearances. Very rarely has he been injured since becoming India captain in 2007 (initially in limited overs cricket).
Wadekar hailed Dhoni’s fitness: “This is extraordinary. He is some kind of a wonder who, mind you, plays all three formats of the game.”
Asked about Dhoni’s fitness levels, Chappell said: “I do marvel at Dhoni’s fitness and resilience — he has a remarkable record of playing all forms, plus ’keeping and captaining the side. It makes a joke of Australia’s much touted rotation system.”