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Should Dhoni reinvent himself under Kohli?

by Gaurav Sethi

After India's semi-final defeat in the World Cup, MS Dhoni spoke of taking a call on his availability for the 2019 World Cup - but only after the World Twenty20 in 2016.
For most players, form and fitness decide, with MS however, Dhoni decides. In the past, Dhoni has missed the odd series, usually when he decided to rest himself.
Not since Sachin Tendulkar has a player selected or rested himself for an entire series - both have had enough clout to even rest themselves for a Test series.
Compare this with someone like Rahul Dravid, who the selectors forced out of retirement to play an ODI series in England - just because he was the only Indian batsman scoring runs on that tour.
Every time Dhoni walks out to bat, be it a Test match, a one-dayer, a T20 International or an IPL game, commentary will sweet talk you through the virtues of Dhoni-the-ultimate-finisher, Dhoni-the-big-six-hitter, Dhoni-the...
Well of course, this is true in ODIs and even more so in the IPL, especially with LS in tow. And just as Dhoni never quite made the switch through formats, neither did some of the mesmerised mouthpieces. 
"When he hits it, it stays hit." 
Dhoni's T20 Average (includes IPL and Champions League games for CSK) is nearly 38, his strike rate about 137. 
"MS is not the next Gilchrist. He's the first MS Dhoni" - Adam Gilchrist
Dhoni's T20 International Average is nearly 34 (includes 20 not outs from 45 innings) but his strike rate is 116. 
"If 15 runs are needed off the last 6 balls, pressure is on the bowler and not on MS Dhoni" - Ian Bishop 
Perhaps Bishop is referring to the last over in the CSK vs KXIP 2010 IPL Semis. Dhoni scored 4, 2, 6, 6 and sealed the game. The bowler was Irfan Pathan. Dhoni made 54(29) at a strike rate of 186. Irfan Pathan doesn't bowl to Dhoni in T20 internationals. 
Dhoni has played 194 T20 games but only 50 T20 Internationals from 2007-2014. He is yet to score a half century, his highest is 48*(43).
India lost this game by 31 runs to Australia.In 24 matches that India has won, his batting average climbs to nearly 42, strike rate to 136. In 21 that India's lost, his strike rate drops to 98.
How many remember that Dhoni was clean bowled by Umar Gul in the 2007 World T20 Finals for 6 off 9 balls in the 15th over?
And how many will ever forget Dhoni lifting the T20 Cup beating Pakistan?
Averages and strike rates have never defined Dhoni. Dhoni is much greater than the sum of his numerical parts. Much like Afridi is for Pakistan, MSD is top draw in a limited overs game.
While India might find it comparatively easy to come to terms with his Test retirement, losing him in the other formats will be way too much for India's cricket industry to stomach.  
Virat Kohli has played 28 T20 Internationals - he averages 46, strikes at 132, and has 9 50s.
Unlike Dhoni his T20I numbers are much better than his IPL numbers. I often joke, "Kohli ne RCB ka nahin, India ka theka liya hai" . (Kohli gives a damn for India, not for RCB) 
After the World Cup, I see one man captain India across all three formats - will Dhoni play under Kohli? Or as the numbers' suggest, Dhoni earns his place in the T20I team, first as skipper, talisman, superstar, last-over-believer, and then as a batsman. Take away the captaincy and you take away the aura - almost like taking off his gloves, leaving him naked at deep point. 
What else? A few overs of seam up from him? "I am learning the ropes of captaincy from MS Dhoni." - DJ Bravo, CSK
Dhoni made a duck in his first ODI. That was followed by 12 and 7* against Bangladesh in 2004; how many remember that? And how many remember that 148 against Pakistan that followed? Dhoni in, early at three, after three failures at seven. Ganguly was captain then. And Dhoni's hair was long, wild, Conan like.
Is it time for Dhoni to embrace cricket purely as a sportsman again? He'll find life is much simpler without positions like captain and vice president.
Who knows there could be a sequel to the Helicopter - The Mars Orbiter.

First published here

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