Dhoni gets his timing right again

Timing, for a batsman, is everything. Even if he is a moment late or early into his shot, it can result in his dismissal. Not unlike a batsman timing the ball well, exiting from the scene at the right time is equally crucial. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who retired as the limited-overs captain early last week, couldn’t have timed his departure any better. The manner in which he broke the news of his decision to step down as ODI and T20I skipper wasn’t dissimilar to the one when he relinquished Test captaincy towards the end of 2014 in Melbourne. On both occasions, the cricketing world came to know about the surprise developments through crisply worded BCCI emails. It was a quiet end to a great era in Indian cricket. Dhoni, despite his modest cricketing background, managed to manufacture more success as captain than any other Indian captain before him. He won all three ICC trophies, the only captain to accomplish such a feat, and led India to No 1 ranking in Tests for the first time in 2009. He was the master of all he surveyed and it would be fair to say that he had nothing much left to achieve as a captain.

While Dhoni’s retirement from Tests, not just as a captain but a player as well, was a bolt from the blue, his handing over of the limited-overs reins to Virat Kohli was less of a surprise. When Dhoni quit playing Tests, he had no pressure to do so and Kohli had led India in just one match prior to that. This time though, the situation was different. From time to time, questions were raised about his continuance at the helm as India endured more losses than wins in shorter versions post the 2015 World Cup. Personally, too, his batting had taken some beating. On the other hand, Kohli has only grown from strength to strength. While he presided over India’s rise to the top of the rankings in Tests, he remains India’s batting fulcrum in all formats.

With the next World Cup less than three years away, it was only fair that Kohli got enough time to build his team for the mega event. As Kohli pointed out in an interview recently, it’s a win-win situation for him. While he is pumped up to take over the leadership in all three formats, he will also have the services of Dhoni as a wicketkeeper-batsman. At 35, there are few in the country who can challenge Dhoni for that spot. Free of his captaincy burden, one can hope that the 35-year-old regains his old mojo with the bat.

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