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Should MS Dhoni Step Down As Captain & What Legacy Will He Leave Behind

Dhoni captain of India hits the winning runs watched by Kumar Sangakkara captain of Sri Lanka to secure victory during the  ICC World Cup

The Bangladesh series defeat, which was unexpected for all Indian fans, has suddenly thrown up a lot of questions that before the series began could not have been on anyone’s minds. India were coming into the series, off the back of a run to World Cup Semi-Finals, in tough and, some may say alien, Australian conditions, with pitches very different to the one that India are used to back home.

The team’s run to the SF, in its title defense of the World Cup, had pleased most fans, and the cherry on top was the emphatic win over arch rivals Pakistan, which put India’s record against Pakistan in Cricket’s premier event at 6 – 0 ! India had played excellent cricket through out the tournament and looked like they could go all the way, before their run was halted at the SF stage by hosts and eventual winners Australia.

As India’s great run at the World Cup finished at the SF stage, it brought with it a mixture of feelings. There was naturally disappointment that India had exited the World Cup, but in greater measure there was a sense of pride about the excellent standard of cricket India had displayed. Above all though, there was a great deal of hope for the future, and a promise of bigger things to come.

Fast forward a few months, and India had quickly slumped to a new low in Bangladesh. Bangladesh had been a side which had flattered to deceive for the most part of its cricketing existence, but had shown signs of a turnaround with their run to the QF at the world cup. Bangladesh had been on a good run since then and had on a 8 match winning streak at home, and had just ‘banglawashed’ a weakened Pakistan side in the preceding series.

Even so, a full strength India side were not just expected to win the series, but were expected to win the series 3-0. As things turned out, India lost the first two matches and thus the series, before taking a consolation win in the 3rd match, when the series was already lost. Losing to Bangladesh, a traditional minnow of world cricket, was bad enough, but the manner of the defeats was even more disheartening for the fans. The matches had not even been close, and Bangladesh had dominated with the bat, with the ball, they had shown more desire to win, and had outplayed India in every way that was possible.

The leadership of Dhoni, which in the past 8 years had often been the single most important barrier standing between his side and a loss, had rarely, if ever, looked more unimaginative and ineffective. The World Cup had finished with promise of even bigger achievements, but India had quickly slumped to a new low, and the influential  leader appeared to have completely lost his midas touch.

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MS Dhoni With the World Cup, and The Trophy for being the Man of The Match in the Final.
MS Dhoni With the World Cup Trophy, and the Award for being the Man of The Match in the Final.

Dhoni had always been a leader who said little and was always but whose eyes had always given out a sense of confidence. One look at the Dhoni’s eyes in a crunch situation, whether in a chase or when defending a total, and the message was clear to everyone – “Don’t worry, I got this”. This had always been Dhoni’s biggest strength as a captain. He always seemed to tell the opposition with his eyes, that they needn’t bother, he had things under control, and he would find a way to win.

Those who started to question Dhoni continuing as captain, did so not primarily because of the loss to Bangladesh alone. Wins and losses happen in cricket, and it was not like India were supposed to defeat Bangladesh forever. Sooner or later Bangladesh just had to win a series against India. Its was also not the first series India had lost, nor would it be the last.

Dhoni had always walked onto the field as if he were wearing a shroud or an armour of confidence. For the first time ever, during the Bangladesh series, that armour appeared to have cracked. Dhoni did not look his old self at all, not just on it, but off it as well. There were things said, that the Dhoni of old would have never said. He had pulled up a few of his players in the press conference, he had gone on length to explain his team selection. This was not Dhoni, and Dhoni was clearly feeling the pressure.

Change is inevitable, and there is no doubt to anyone, including Dhoni, that he has limited time left as captain. Virat Kohli is the future of India cricket today, just as MS Dhoni was the blue eyed boy of Indian cricket after the World T20 win in South Africa. Kohli has impressed one and all, with the limited chances he has had as the leader of the test side, although it must be pointed out here that Kohli still has to win a test match as captain.

Even so, everyone knows that Virat Kohli will take over the ODI captaincy, and in all likelihood take over soon. Such a situation is never easy for the outgoing leader and MS Dhoni is finding that out now. There is talk that the dressing room is no longer united. This is not a reflection on Dhoni, but more on the situation. Whenever there is a leader with limited time left as leader, as MS Dhoni so clearly is, his plans, his visions, are seen as short term things. Everyone is more interested in what the next leader’s plan his, what his vision is going to be for the team.

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Therefore, the non-existant plans of the next leader take precedence over the vision of the current leader. Every decision of the current captain that doesn’t work, will suddenly start to be compared to what Kohli would have done in a similar situation. Slowly the leader finds he is no longer fully incharge of the guys. A look of disapproval or a head-shake from a player which earlier he would not even notice, suddenly starts to stand out. Suddenly the leader starts to need the feel to explain his decisions to people, to justify his decisions. A leader fully incharge of his men will try to justify a decision the way Dhoni tried to justify Rahane’s exclusion and Rayudu’s inclusion into the side.

Dhoni had never done anything even remotely similar in the past, because he had never felt the need to. Dhoni gave little away in his interactions to the media, but suddenly Dhoni is a man of many words. This is a clear indication of the pressure he is feeling. This is not something that should reflect poorly on Virat, or the team, or indeed Dhoni, this just a natural course of events, that has taken place many times in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. A leader being seen to be standing on the doorstep to change, is never going to be fully in control of the team.

After Winning the Champions' Trophy in England, and Completing his Trophy Collection. The ONLY Captain EVER to do so.
Dhoni After Winning the Champions’ Trophy in England, Completing his Trophy Collection. The ONLY Captain EVER to do so.

So should MS Dhoni resign as the limited over skipper and hand over captaincy to Kohli – Yes. That is the only answer, because Dhoni continuing to lead is not going to help matters, and he is only going to be seen as delaying the inevitable. The sooner this transition from Dhoni to Kohli happens, the better it is for the team. The new captain can then assign new roles, and new positions and make the changes and tweaks he wants to make and with the new blueprint in place, the team can then work ahead to the next big target.

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MS Dhoni has tried to re-invent himself #4 in the batting line up, and Raina has clearly been designated as the new finisher. This seems like a good change going forward, but a question will always hang over any decision Dhoni makes. Is this how Kohli sees their role, or does he have his own plans?

Its clear that MS Dhoni will have to hand over the reigns to Kohli. However as MS Dhoni leaves, we must look back on what he has achieved, and the answer is – everything!!

MS Dhoni will leave with the most complete trophy collection in the history of World Cricket. MS Dhoni has won every major trophy there is to win –

IPL – Won

CLT20 – Won

World T20 – Won

ICC Champions’ Trophy – Won

ICC World Cup – Won

Mace for being #1 Test Side – Won.

31dhoni3
MS Dhoni with the “Mace”. Under his Leadership India Became the World #1 Test Side, after a tough 1-1 Series Draw Away in South Africa

No other captain in the history of the sport, even the greatest of them  – Clive Lloyd, Alan Border, Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, or indeed anyone else, who can lay claim to such a large and comprehensive trophy collection. There is no major trophy at either Club or International level, in any of the three formats of Cricket, that MS Dhoni had the chance to win, that he didn’t win. This is perhaps the greatest testament to MS Dhoni’s abilities as a skipper.What is more he won all those trophies with a bowling attack that was not even half as good as the ones that these great captains of the past had at their disposal.

This is the legacy MS Dhoni will leave behind. The only real blemish being his recent record in away Test series. However even so many will forget that MS Dhoni has a near 70% win record in tests at home, and the most complete trophy collection any captain has ever had in the history of the game.

MS Dhoni well and truly was a talisman as a leader, however even he, it seems, cannot stand in the way of change, but what ride it has been!

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