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Time for Captain Cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni to leave the hot seat

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 - 6:15am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
He has won India a World Cup, but it is time for MS Dhoni -- the Test captain -- to go and make way for Kohli, writes KR Guruprasad

Optimistic fans of Indian Cricket ought to thank Michael Vaughan. The former English captain mocked the subcontinental team by tweeting a picture of white cloth on a mast as Indian cricket's new flag.

It's probably common knowledge that waving a white flag means surrender. That's what Tom often waved at Jerry after 15 minutes of battering in the world of animation. India hasn't ended their English summer any better than the bluish grey cat did at the end of most episodes.

The abject capitulation of MS Dhoni and his men, in what was a much-awaited five- Test series, has turned out to be an eye-opener about Indian cricket, something that fans have often turned a blind eye to.

That's why Vaughan's 'whitewash' is significant, because on white, you can paint a new colour. It is like the proverbial clean slate and a new beginning. In a way, it is also symbolic of the rock bottom, and the climb back for Indian cricket must begin with change in captaincy.

Yes, Dhoni's time as captain of Indian Test team is up.

Dhoni the captain must go and Dhoni the wicket-keeper-batsman must stay. That is the way forward. A leader has to take the blame for his team's failure. He has enjoyed a long rope in this regard and he must realise that it is not a tether to be taken for granted.

Much has been said by experts about the lack of choice to replace Dhoni. This argument holds water if one is looking at a quick-fix solution, or rather maintaining the status quo. However, if one is looking at the future and is thinking of rebuilding the team, there is a choice — Virat Kohli.

The next series, against West Indies at home, presents India the right opportunity to ease Kohli into the role of captaincy. The 25-year-old will be more at ease against a less-fancied team and it will also give him the time needed to settle his nerves before going to Australia.

The four-Test series Down Under could turn out much like the recent series in England. Kohli may not pull off any miracles, but there is no denying that he will not do worse than what the Dhoni-led team did this summer. There will at least be solace in the fact that Kohli is a long-term investment — a risk worth taking.

One has to look at how South Africa went about appointing a 22-year-old Graeme Smith as captain in 2003 to succeed Shaun Pollock. At that time, he was seen as reckless with few leadership credentials, but that move worked wonderfully for the Proteas. A young and aggressive captain is what India needs and we should take this particular leaf out of South Africa's book.

Kohli has earned the respect of his teammates with his stupendous run since his debut and it is no secret that he is seen as the heir apparent. He has captained the Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL and is not new to leading a team in the middle. His coronation has to be speeded up.

Wasn't Mohammad Azharuddin asked, "Miyan, captain banogey?" when he himself did not believe he would lead the team? It was Sourav Ganguly's fearless leadership at a young age that spurred young Indian team to wear the kind of aggression never seen before. Even Dhoni was like a breath of fresh air when he was made the captain. But now, it's time Dhoni is succeeded by Kohli.

And what exactly is there to gain by retaining Dhoni as captain? With the loss against England, he is now the worst captain to lead India on overseas tours. There has been lack of ideas and initiatives from him and, as a leader, he has failed time and again. There is nothing to suggest he did anything to inspire the team in England as they kept getting knocked out without a fight.

Dhoni rounded off the miserable series by asking a journalist to not be jealous of IPL, while replying to a genuine question, and showed arrogance not befitting a captain, let alone of a team, that got thrashed.

Dhoni is India's most successful captain and has won all the trophies, including the World Cup. He deserves all the respect, he is a hero and should continue to be one. He is still arguably a batsman to be feared and his cool-headed approach will keep the middle-order strong. As a wicket-keeper-batsman, 33-year-old Dhoni still has lot to contribute. And he can share his experience to guide young Kohli.

It would be a retrograde step to let Dhoni continue as captain in Tests. He should lead India in ODIs till World Cup in 2015, and this split in captaincy — Dhoni for ODIs and Kohli for Tests — is worth a try. There is nothing left to lose now.

After winning the World Cup in 2011, the thrust should have been on winning series abroad regularly. And BCCI should focus on that. India has to beat Australia in Australia, South Africa in South Africa and England in England in Test series regularly, that's what will make India a superpower in cricket. Till then, it is just a spoilt rich brat.

The question remains. Will selectors use the opportunity to paint the white flag thrust on its face by Vaughan or let it flutter? The die needs to be cast.

Overseas record of Indian captains
Captain                             W   L   D
Kapil Dev                          2    2   7
Rahul Dravid                     3    2   5
Sunil Gavaskar                 2    3   5
Sourav Ganguly                5    6   5
Mohammad Azharuddin  0   10 13
MS Dhoni                          4   14  7

India under Dhoni since 2011 (overseas)
In West Indies: Won three-match series 1-0
In England: Lost four match series 0-4
In Australia: Lost four-match series 0-4
In South Africa: Lost two-match series 0-1
In New Zealand: Lost two-match series 0-1
In England: Lost five-match series 1-3


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