A BATTING WITH BIMAL BREAKING REPORT: Rahul Dravid advises Mahendra Singh Dhoni to step down as captain of the Chennai Super Kings and T20 side

Dravid respects Dhoni for showing the heart and passion to carry on in spite of all the harsh criticism he has received

Legendary India batsman Rahul Dravid has advised skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to step down as captain of the Twenty20 side and also as leader of his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, the Chennai Super Kings.

However, Dravid stated that he believes Dhoni is currently still the “only man” capable of leading the Test side and should continue to do so despite having an appalling record over the past 18 months.

“Not only is Dhoni the only man to lead India in Test cricket, he is still capable of doing the job well,” Dravid said. “What it will require from him is a change in the way he captains, a recognition that he can’t do everything all the time, and the willingness to ask for and accept help.

“Dhoni has got to recognise that he can’t continue to captain and play all the time, because it is making him stale… To start with, Dhoni could easily give up the India T20 and Chennai Super Kings captaincies…He needs to take breaks between captaining and keeping and playing.

“He should certainly play ODIs and T20s for India, because he is invaluable to the side. Giving up a couple of captaincy roles might give him more time in the main India job and the freshness to keep doing it. It would also give India an opportunity to perhaps give someone like (Virat) Kohli a chance to be T20 captain, break him into the job and see how he goes.”

Dhoni’s captaincy has come under heavy criticism recently, especially after losing to England in a four-Test series and Pakistan in a limited overs series on home soil.

Despite being in outstanding form as of late, many cricket pundits and former players believe Dhoni is beginning to show signs of exhaustion and fatigue.

While Dravid feels that Dhoni could potentially change his approach slightly, he still sees no real candidates capable of replacing the wicketkeeper batsman, who has led India to victory in the 2007 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 and 2011 ICC World Cup.

“He has had a good run, and will be recognised as India’s most successful captain, and he now has a chance to extend it,” Dravid added. “Other than his leadership qualities, there is the fact that there are no alternatives to Dhoni at this stage.”

Opening batsman Gautam Gambhir was a candidate at one point for Dravid, but his dismal form in Test cricket has extinguished the little hope that he had.

“At one point we felt Gautam Gambhir could take over the job,” Dravid said. “In 2008-09, Gautam showed he could definitely play at the international level and in all formats. His captaincy of Kolkata Knight Riders in the last IPL was excellent.

“Yet what goes against him today is the fact that he has not scored too many Test runs in the last three years, and he averages under 32. Also, unlike Dhoni, Gautam does not have a second skill to back up his batting, even if that skill is being an excellent slip fielder.

“Still, Gautam’s batsmanship and experience remain very important for the team, and giving him the captaincy at a time like this would be a burden on him. Before anything else, he has to get his Test batting back on track. If he does, he still has age on his side.”

Batsman Virat Kohli has been groomed to take over the captaincy from Dhoni, but Dravid believes that the youngster still needs some time to evolve before stepping into a leadership role.

“Virat Kohli is the only other alternative leader, and he ticks the box of being an automatic selection in all three formats,” Dravid added. “Yet I believe it’s a little early for him. At the moment, he is a growing, developing cricketer.

“I would love for him to get the job after the next overseas cycle is done, with the end of the England tour in September 2014. If he can keep his form and develop till then, it will be a good time for him to take over. He is a long-term prospect as batsman and captain, but giving him the Test captaincy at this stage might be risky.”

Dravid also mentioned that Dhoni should stay on as captain until India have resolved all their transitional issues.

“Between the home series against Australia next month and the end of that England tour, there are 15 Test matches,” Dravid said. “At the end of those 15 Tests, if Dhoni can have turned things around for Indian cricket, have had a couple of good overseas tours, and can then hand over the captaincy to the next man, that would rank among his greatest achievements.

“He would have taken the responsibility of leading a team in transition and left it in a better state.”

Even though Dhoni has received a lot of criticism over the past year, he has still been able to defy the odds and carry on unscathed and Dravid believes that his resilience is something that deserves everyone’s respect.

“What I like about Dhoni is that he is a leader by example,” Dravid said. “We saw this in the Nagpur Test match – and not merely from his second-innings 99. In Nagpur, because the wicket was slow, Dhoni came up to the stumps to Ishant Sharma, who was bowling at 140kph.

“To do that was gutsy, because it had “break your finger” written all over it. Dhoni was willing to take that chance, and to me, in some ways, that shows leadership. Sometimes he promotes himself up the batting order at critical times – the World Cup final was a good example.

“He is willing to play through niggles and injuries. That provides an example for others in the team to follow. When he bats with the tail, he plays his shots, can improvise, and shows he is not there to protect his own runs or his wicket.”

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