Dhoni knows that his captaincy may come to an end in the near future
India batting legend Rahul Dravid is confident that current captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still fit to lead the national team, despite calls for him to be replaced after having being humiliated by England and Australia late last year.
Dhoni also failed to take India to the semi-finals of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20, which shocked many pundits and fans since the entire national team are veterans of the star-studded Indian Premier League (IPL).
Dravid noted that Dhoni had to start coming up with a game plan on how to end India’s woes during overseas tours, especially when they play against South Africa late next year.
The Indian legend also suggested that Dhoni should be actively involved in the selection process since he would be the best person to decide which bowlers and batsmen would be best suited to the conditions the team will be playing in.
Speaking on ESPNcricinfo’s Time Out, Dravid said: “From his own personal point of view, you also want to see the best of Dhoni as a player. He has a lot to contribute as a batsman and wicketkeeper and we want to see the best of that, I don’t think we want to lose that and if that means at some stage, maybe the time’s not right now but in the near future, we have to relieve him of the responsibility from one format to get the best out of him as a player then I think the selectors have to take that call.” Across all three formats, Dhoni has captained India in 203 of his 318 matches.
“He has got to have an eye on some of the challenges he faces in his career, to be seen as a good overseas captain as well. That will be a function of the team he gets, but he’s got to try and have an influence on the kind of team he gets, the kind of personnel he wants and that’s a process that he’s got to start now, it’s a process of communication and negotiation with selectors, coaches, working on some of the skill-sets of some of the bowlers and young batsmen coming through on what is required in a year’s time. So while he has a micro view of what needs to be done in these [home] series [against England and Australia], he needs to discuss with the selectors about the kind of players he wants in South Africa and entrust them with the job of actually finding those players in domestic cricket.”
While Dravid realises Dhoni is lucky to still be captain of the Indian team after losing seven overseas Test series in a row, he believes that the current captain will show his outstanding leadership abilities in the last two Test matches against England.
“Dhoni has every right to survive it, because he’s Dhoni. He has had a disappointing last year but he has won India a World Cup, we’ve been the No. 1 Test side under Dhoni. If you put pressure on him so early in the piece, or if you try to change someone like Dhoni now, I don’t think you’ll get to see what he’s learned from the last year,” Dravid said.
Dravid also defended Dhoni’s overseas record, stating that playing in India compared to overseas is not an easy transition since the conditions are vastly different and the bowling attack would have to be constantly experimented with as well.
“When [India are] fielding, you can obviously see the difference because on the field is where you’ve got to manage that bowling attack,” Dravid said. “And when you don’t have the necessary skills with the bowling attack, you can start looking a bit defensive, a bit flustered, bit rattled and start looking around for answers. But otherwise he’s been pretty similar and that’s been one of his strengths – his ability to stay balanced even through the highs and lows of Indian cricket, to be able to manage and stay in a cocoon, and not get too affected by what’s happening around him.”
However, Dravid believes that Dhoni has recently sealed himself off within a “cocoon” and has called on the Indian captain to open up and accept more advice from anyone who offers it.
“There are a lot of good suggestions outside of the cocoon and there’s a lot you can learn and pick up outside of this cocoon as well, which maybe he sometimes misses out on,” Dravid added.
Even though openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have had a taste of being Test captain while Dhoni has been absent, Dravid sees huge potential in young batsman Virat Kohli and believes that he is the future of Indian cricket.
“In the next 12 months, if he has the kind of 12 months he has had and establishes himself in all three formats of the game, people are going to seriously have to look at him,” Dravid said.