For seven seasons of the IPL now, Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni have shared the same dressing-room and the same goal. To ensure that Chennai Super Kings continue to be the most dominant force in the competition. And a major part of the former New Zealand captain’s Indian summers have been spent brainstorming strategies and tactics with Dhoni.
Rarely has Fleming, however, had to face questions, and critical ones at that, about Dhoni’s captaincy credentials. Such is the success-rate that India’s incumbent leader achieved in T20 cricket. But following the 3-1 series debacle in England-the incorrigible capitulation in the final two Tests in particular-Dhoni’s leadership skills in the longer format have come under intense scrutiny of late.
Most who have not been in favour of enforcing a change of guard with regards to Test captaincy have cited the lack of potential successors as their main defense. On Friday, Fleming joined that chorus, insisting that Dhoni remained India’s only choice in spite of his appalling record overseas.
“Maybe a Dhoni under pressure is still your best option. He has got the experience and I know he has the respect of the dressing room, which are two important ingredients. It is fine just to say that the captain has to go but if you are giving the problem to someone else without a strong solution then you are just papering over the problem,” said Fleming, who led the Black Caps in Tests and one-day internationals for close to a decade.
If not for his poor returns in England-134 runs at 13.4 in five Tests-it’s Virat Kohli who would have been expected to emerge as a candidate to replace Dhoni. But Fleming believed that it was premature to even start talking about Kohli as a future Test skipper.
“Firstly, you’ll have to see what kind of a head space Virat is in after England, and whether he is even ready to take over. Not to forget what impact it will have on his batting. It is fine captaining an IPL side but Tests are a different challenge. There are a lot of questions to be asked but the first one is that whether Kohli is better than Dhoni?” he explained.
“If you look at Cook at the start of the series you could say he was exactly under the same kind of pressure which Dhoni is now. For it to reverse so quickly is somewhat astonishing,” he said.