We have witnessed revolutionary changes in leadership positions across various fields in the globe over the last couple of months. From Donald Trump being elected as the leader of the White House, to Theresa May taking charge of the House of Lords, from Roger Federer and Serena Williams reclaiming the Australian Open Grand Slam titles, to Usain Bolt cementing his name as an all-time great athlete at Rio Olympics after clinching three more gold medals; leaders have emerged from new horizons and have led the charge in the extremely challenging circumstances. Similar is the story of the Indian cricket too, which has recently seen the leadership baton being passed from the captain cool M. S. Dhoni to the captain fearless Virat Kohli.

The journey of Indian captaincy started way back in 1932 when C. K. Nayudu led the team against England and since then Indian cricket has witnessed 32 test captains who have led the Indian Cricket team for over 80 years. However, things were pretty different back then as India was emerging in the cricketing arena and learning to play on bouncy turfs. The Indian Teams displayed subdued attitude and struggled for years to draw a test. The fact that we registered our first test victory in 1952, two decades after playing the first test, signifies how long it took us to start making an identity of a Test Playing Nation.

Indian Cricket was never deprived of world-class talent, but the spirit of winning a difficult game, took its own sweet time. Indian cricket saw some fantastic talent in Wadekar, Nawab Pataudi, Eknath Solkar, Sunil Gavaskar, the spin trio of Bedi, Venkat and Chandrashekhar. India had it first prolific all-rounder in Kapil Dev, who even led India to its maiden World Cup in 1983. Despite sporadic success, Indian Cricket had not reached its true potential. Dominated by the world, in spite of talent, was seen as a lack of attitude.

Things started to change in the 90’s under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin with the emergence of stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble. Since then, with every captain, Indian cricket has seen steady up scale and has achieved prominent status in today’s cricketing world. The man who challenged the dominating teams across the world with his attitude and aggressive captaincy was Sourav Ganguly. With arguably the best opening pair of Sachin and Sehwag, backed by two of world’s most dependable batsman Dravid and Laxman, and the unmatched spin duo Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, Dada (as his team mates used to call him) changed the way Indian team was looked at. Whether it was the magnificent comeback in the famous home Test Series win against the World Champions Australia in 2001, or the unbelievable run chase in the Natwest series final in 2002, Ganguly led the team to believe that they can beat any team anywhere in the world. It was under his leadership that India reached the final of the Cricket World Cup 2003.

In 2004, under the leadership of Ganguly a young lad from Ranchi named M. S. Dhoni (MSD) made his debut, who later changed Indian cricket like no one else has ever done before. This wicket keeping batsman with the most unorthodox batting style brought poise and control like none other. That well-built frame with long hair, unusual and unconventional cricketing brain understood the opposition with utmost ease and without any animation on the field. He had the potential of taking the game away with the mere execution of calmness, under the most difficult of circumstances. It was his capabilities to play an unpredictable gamble in unexpected situations that helped him become one of the finest captains ever to lead India.

The horrifying exit from World Cup 2007 after being defeated at the hands of minnows Bangladesh, led to the big question on the future of Indian cricket and its leadership. When all the star players backed out for the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa, the management was forced to choose M. S. Dhoni as the captain of a young side. The man, who had to lead an underdog Indian team, had no previous captaincy experience, even in his first class career. And to lead from the front with the expectations of billions of cricket crazy Indian fans, it takes something very special to emerge victorious.
Dhoni’s ability to produce unexpected results every single time in a tricky situation using his unconventional captaincy tactics makes him the leader he is. Whether it was the gamble of giving final over to Joginder Sharma in T20 WC 2007 final or giving the charge of bowling to the most expensive bowler Ishant Sharma in the Champions Trophy final 2013, his decisions looked peculiar, but turned out to be very effective.

Very rarely it happens that your extraordinarily unorthodox rustic batting talent gets overshadowed by your leadership and similar was the scenario for him. His batting numbers may not justify the talent he possesses, but M. S. Dhoni is certainly one of the best finishers the game has ever seen. The Masterclass innings of 91 runs, batting up the order, even before the in-form Yuvraj Singh in WC 2011 final and hitting that unforgettable six off Kulasekera at Wankhede Stadium seals the debate about him being the best in the business and the saying when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What makes him great is his ability to foresee what needs to be done for the betterment of Indian cricket and do the right thing with a workman-like precision. Though his unexpected announcement of retiring from test matches right in the middle of the Australian series back in 2014, had taken many by shock, but he was inscrutably in control of the situation and selfless enough to understand that it was the right time to hang his test boots and let the young turk Kohli take over the reins towards a bigger and brighter future of Indian cricket.

While Dhoni was handed over captaincy under a crisis directly leading the team in the international arena, Virat Kohli started his captaincy lesson right at the young age when he first captained the U-15 Delhi team for 2003–04 Polly Umrigar Trophy. He continued to impress at the domestic level and went on to lead the winning side of U-19 world cup in 2008 held in Malaysia. Kohli made his international debut under the captainship of MSD when the team was fairly balanced and hence got a fair share of learning from senior colleagues, including the master Sachin Tendulkar. Virat’s career flourished under Dhoni’s leadership and over the period he became a match winner, especially chasing mountainous targets in ODIs.

An unstoppable run machine which Kohli is, allowed him to take the opposition by storm and dominate them with unmatched aggression. His confidence and team’s dependability on his performance earned him the position of Vice-Captain of the Indian team at an early age of 22. With Dhoni at the helm, Kohli learned the art of exhibiting calmness at demanding situations and mixing it with right amount of aggression. While Dhoni’s leadership overshadowed his batting abilities, for Kohli it is the other way around. His batting talent exhibiting every possible cricketing shot with flawless implementation, especially the Cover Drive still overshadows his leadership capabilities. Very few people can match the exquisite “Kohli Cover drive.”

With the upcoming busy schedule for Indian cricket, along with the most important Champions trophy and WC 2019, it was ideal for Dhoni to hand over his shoes to the man whom the team looked up to and relied upon; who comes to the occasion every time the team needs him and displays a batting performance which makes the opposition fear the most. While Kohli always had a Dhoni when he started his journey as a Captain, Dhoni’s journey was relatively alone, motivating a young bunch of aspiring cricketers and leading from the front was his leadership style.

With age and aggression by his side, it will be interesting to see how Kohli takes Indian cricket to newer heights. The records set by MSD are already in the history books and it won’t be easy for anyone to come in and reach Dhoni’s feats. It could have been an unexpected decision for millions of fans, but MSD was convinced that the charge of captaincy has to go the fellow master who can take it forward his legacy, and he has donned the role of a team mentor for a shorter version of the game for the betterment of Indian cricket. It is clearly evident that Dhoni and BCCI have a very well planned transition plan for the ODI and T20 teams. With Virat’s aggression and Dhoni’s exemplary cricketing sense, the youngsters get exposed to both sides of the best. He is still India’s best wicket-keeping batsman and he presumably needs to groom the next wicket-keeping batman out of prodigies like Ishan Kishen and others. That’s his role now, which itself is a master stroke from BCCI and MSD.

Though, Kohli has taken to the helm in all the three formats of the game, Dhoni is still observed as contributing to most of the on-field decisions. For instance, the famous incident at the recently played ODI series against England when Dhoni immediately asked for the DRS (Decision Review System) when the on field umpire failed to see the feather edge by the batsmen. Since, Dhoni is no longer the captain of the ODI, Kohli went for the DRS trusting his former captain’s decision which turns out to be right as it has happened most of the time. There have been numerous instances of DRS wherein Dhoni has called the shots bang on target, which has compelled the media and the cricketing fraternity to call the famous DRS system as a Dhoni Review System for being more accurate than the umpires themselves.

While Dhoni is reminiscent to ice under pressure, Kohli can give even a volcano a run for its money when aggression comes in the picture. Though millions of cricketing fans across the globe are going to miss the captain cool M. S. Dhoni’s maverick decisions across all the formats, it will be great to have two amazing talents being part of the same team and playing with the blue jersey on.

The cricketing world has seen many leaders but very few have left a legacy behind like M. S. Dhoni. They say the true mark of a leader is that his team performs when he is not there; that’s the Dhoni way of doing things. Captaining the winning team T20 WC 2007 and WC 2011, Champions Trophy 2013 and achieving for the first time ever the feat of being a No. 1 team in test ranking, Dhoni has unparalleled records with his cabinet full of all ICC trophies. Virat on the other hand comes across as the worthy successor to this legacy, with the emperor himself grooming him.

The Helicopter shot will never go off site for all the cricket fans, but now it will be the Cover Drive with perfection that shall guide the Indian cricket in the coming years. Indian cricket is surely in good hands, as it was for the last 10 years.

Authored by:

Priyanka Chavda
Corporate Communications
IL&FS Financial Services (IFIN)




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