Much has been written about the Ranchi one day international being potentially Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s swansong on Indian soil as far as playing in India’s colours is concerned. However, an important side story is the breaking apart of the leadership duo that is often less highlighted and the impact of that on Virat Kohli.
Not only was the idea behind wearing the camouflage caps in the course of the third one day international a joint pre-planned affair between India’s former captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and current Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, but also, the plotting India’s successes over the years. Much was talked about the fact when Virat Kohli, emerging out of the shadows of Sachin Tendulkar post the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, appeared to be fast catching up with Dhoni who was then India’s captain. Eventually it seemed that time for Dhoni to pass on the Test cricket captain mantle was long overdue when unexpectedly midway through the Test series in Australia in 2014, Dhoni announced his retirement, making the obvious now the norm.
However, while there were speculations about the rare, odd and rather awkward scenario where a former captain with playing ambitions would have to play under a younger, more aspirational skipper with a penchant for embracing of the public adulation, Dhoni has enjoyed being a player with modest appreciation while letting Kohli rightfully take on the spotlight.
For his part, Kohli has been nothing but respectful of Dhoni, even defending the former captain when his bat fell ominously silent and his place in the team was being questioned, particularly with the ICC Cricket World Cup not that far away. On more than one occasion, Kohli has been expressive about using Dhoni’s quick thinking-on-his-feet acumen in pressure situations and imbibing some of the coolness that Dhoni has built his reputation around.
That said, Kohli’s captaincy has been known to border on impetuosity, retaliatory and sometimes exposing captaincy credentials being somewhat in an embryonic stage vis-à-vis the more mature, composed Dhoni. An odd couple, Dhoni and Kohli seem to complement each other on the field when it comes to strategizing their next move and in that sense, perhaps Kohli will indeed fell the void should the speculation about Dhoni having played his last match on Indian soil be the truth.
For a while, it has been considered that there was far from a competitive streak and more of a camaraderie between the two captains, evident in how they interacted in the after hours. Kohli himself stated explicitly that Dhoni’s presence on the field creates not only clarity of ideas but also, serenity as Dhoni has had the penchant for not being afraid to take the match to the final over, somewhat unconventional in limited overs internationals where tradition dictates matches are finished well before panic about the pressure sets in.
It is not unusual for the manner in which the young wicketkeeper, Rishabh Pant, was treated for his wicket keeping skills vis-à-vis Dhoni and neither is it surprising that Virat Kohli’s glaring omissions about fielding and utilizing Jasprit Bumrah came under the radar, particularly as it became obvious that Australia were putting themselves in a commanding position in Mohali to pull off a second win on the trot. With Dhoni sitting out after the Ranchi one day international, while speculation suggested Dhoni had played his last match in India in his home town, it was not that far a target for Kohli and Rishabh Pant to be put on the defensive, considering the big boots that they have had to fill.