Kohli on paper but MS on ground is India’s mother-of-all-tactics this world cup. If successful, the unprecedented approach to captaincy might become a norm in world cricket moving forward.
- The most important weapon in India’s arsenal is the deadly duo of former captain MS Dhoni and current skipper Virat Kohli.
- Both have complemented each other with Dhoni’s experience enabling Kohli to ease his way into leading Team India.
- It was Dhoni who gave the right platform and free hand to the genius of newcomer Kohli to evolve into the phenomenal player he is today.
- In the build up to the tournament, Kohli had iterated how fortunate he was as captain to have ‘a mind like’ Dhoni to rely on at CWC 2019.
India is going into the 2019 World Cup with a strong line up that boasts not just enough skill and firepower but as much balance and craft. The Indian team has some of the world’s fiercest batsmen and fearless bowlers.
But the most important weapon in its arsenal is the deadly duo of former captain MS Dhoni and current skipper Virat Kohli. The chemistry between Dhoni and Kohli has been tested through the sands of time.
While rumours of differences did circulate early on when Kohli took over the reins from Dhoni, but their visible amicability and passion to succeed rules over the contrasting personality traits.
Unlike the popular conception, Kohli thinks the world of Dhoni and there tuning is the biggest positive for Team India going into the World Cup.
Such crucial is the father figure of master strategist MS Dhoni to the fortunes of Kohli’s high-flying, hard-hitting team that in the build up to the tournament, Kohli had iterated how fortunate he was as captain to have ‘a mind like that’ to rely on at the CWC 2019.
Kohli’s success is Dhoni’s legacy
Kohli is today India’s best player and the hope of a billion people – a mantle that he has ably taken over from master blaster Sachin Tendulkar after his retirement. But it was Dhoni who gave the right platform to the genius of Kohli to evolve into a phenomenal international cricketer.
Kohli made his international debut under Dhoni’s captaincy. Kohli was still raw with ounces of talent but many gaps in his game. With a backer like Dhoni, Kohli was presented with an environment to flourish unlike most young batsmen who enter the international arena.
Kohli has himself stressed on the fact that it was Dhoni’s trust in his ability which made Captain Cool make him bat at the crucial one down position – an opportunity unlikely for most young batsmen still short of making that mark. Kohli has said:
“Although I grabbed my chances, for me to get that kind of backing, it was very crucial for me. Also, he gave me an opportunity to bat at No.3 because not many youngsters get to play at No.3.”
Dhoni takes away a fair share of credit for unearthing of a talent like Virat Kohli who today is one of India’s most prolific batsmen with over 10,000 runs and 40 centuries, having achieved all of it at only 30.
How Dhoni championed Indian cricket’s biggest flaw
Captaincy in Indian cricket has historically been a flawed proposition. There has been only a handful of individual captains who have been able to leave their mark. Traditionally, Indian cricket team has a habit of being run through ‘captaincy by committee’.
History books suggest that Indian teams always see disgruntled cricketers and individuals passed over for younger, arguably more deserving candidates. Captains come in under the stress of having senior, more experienced and influential heavyweights in the team who are reluctant to toe the line.
MS Dhoni himself inherited a team that resounded with names like Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, and Sehwag – all more experienced ex-captains. But Captain Cool made his unique mark, making able ministers out of senior players who communicated their plethora of advices freely with Dhoni adjacent and behind the wickets.
But his decisions were never solely based on advices and had personal Dhoni ideology written all over them. Dhoni championed a non-interference policy and achieved success which translated to respect from younger and older players in the dressing room.
And how he ensures Virat is a successful captain too
After unprecedented success in all three formats where Dhoni ensured that India won every trophy possible, he stepped down and made way for the swashbuckling Virat to lead a young team into a new era. Credit also goes to Dhoni for ensuring that his successor’s tenure at the helm wasn’t underwhelming.
What it has conspired into is a form of split captaincy where although Kohli is the face and most crucial member of the squad, Dhoni continues to engage in on-field decision making and often rescues Kohli’s team from adverse situations.
It is often seen that in crucial periods like the depth overs, Kohli fields around the boundary ensuring he isn’t in range that interferes with Dhoni’s influence on the team.
Dhoni on the other hand ensures that his experience comes to the best use and lets Kohli revel in the winning glory, taking the back seat like a king making master strategist.
Kohli too tamed his ego for the larger goal
It is a popular perception not just in India but around the cricketing world that Virat Kohli is a brash and blunt cricket star whose talent is preceded by his ego. But in truth, the statement flatters to deceive.
Kohli’s urge to win comes much before his personal ambition, evident by how he doesn’t just gel with Dhoni but has put all ego aside to form a brilliant partnership for India’s fortunes. Kohli allowed or even urged Dhoni to be the guiding light as he leads India.
Kohli is a phenomenal batsman. But arguably his captaincy falls short of the same level of greatness. He often seeks advice from more or similarly experienced players in the team and even lets them curate the proceedings for some parts of matches.
Coach Ravi Shastri publicly acknowledged that Kohli could improve on his tactical skills as a captain but also pointed out that his passion for victory and understanding of the team game helps the skipper keep his ego in check and let other players contribute to his portfolio.
MS Dhoni will always be my captain: Virat
Virat Kohli has a special place for MS Dhoni in his list of idols and mentors. And Dhoni obliges Virat with a similar respect and endorsement of his ability.
Kohli stressed this deep endearment of Dhoni when he took over the reins from the all-conquering captain, saying Dhoni will forever be his captain. In a recent interview with India Today, Kohli had opined about the genius of his former skipper:
“He (MS Dhoni) is one person who knows the game inside out, who understands the game from ball 1 to ball 300 on the field. I won’t say it is a luxury to have him but I am fortunate to have a mind like that from behind the stumps.”
There is visible trust and mutual respect between the two of them. Kohli has spoken out about being fortunate to have Dhoni at his side during the initial years of captaincy. He gives due credit to Dhoni for ensuring a smooth transition which did not affect the team’s performance.
Split captaincy with fantastic communication
In the build up to the World Cup, Shastri had spoken of the importance of Dhoni to the team and the fantastic communication between the ex-skipper and Kohli.
In another famous anecdote, during the early days of Virat’s captaincy, Shastri indulged in a conversation to decipher his thoughts on having the much more senior Dhoni in the team.
Shastri emerged a happy and satisfied coach from the conversation with his new captain. And to his credit, the chemistry he perceived between the two captains is India’s biggest strength coming into the world cup.
The friendship and comfort-level between Dhoni and Kohli will be surely factor in if India has to emerge as world champions in 2019. Kohli loves talking to Dhoni – sharing and exchanging views. He had once told Wisden:
“I was always someone who kept talking to him about the game so even when I was really young, before I was made vice-captain, I would give him my suggestions.”
Kohli has mentioned in the past that he has learnt the most from Dhoni and much of the wisdom came from standing at close quarters and observing the master tactician in full flow.
The biggest differentiator for India this World Cup
Dhoni is undoubtedly the sharpest brain to have led India in the game. His expertise will be crucial to India’s hopes of recapping the glory from 2011.
Indian team and its captain will need the wisdom of Dhoni in 2019. And this is also the key differentiator between India and the rest of the teams this time round. Whereas none of the teams have a successful or experienced captain with the ability to stir in passion to victory, India arguably has two.
The approach of split captaincy is a formula that if succeeds might set up the cricketing nations of the world to rethink the position and role of the captain of the team.
Dhoni and Kohli – with their mutual respect and trust – can set up a whole new approach to the game where shared captaincy becomes crucial to extracting strengths of experienced leaders to tactically trump the opposition in the limited overs format.
- With only a handful of successful individual captains, Indian cricket traditionally has a history of being run through ‘captaincy by committee’.
- But Dhoni and Kohli have formed a partnership that has resulted in a split captaincy on the field where Dhoni runs the show for large parts of the game.
- It is often seen that in crucial periods like the depth overs, Kohli fields around the boundary ensuring he isn’t in range that interferes with Dhoni’s influence on the team.
- The partnership could be the key differentiator between India and other teams at the cup – whereas India virtually has two experienced captains on the field.