Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been ruled out of the Asia Cup, which starts next week in Bangladesh, owing to a side strain that he picked up during the second Test in New Zealand. The Indian skipper, who landed in Mumbai along with the rest of the team on Wednesday night, will now undergo a 10-day rehabilitation to recover from a Grade I left side-strain that he suffered while diving to collect a ball in Wellington. Virat Kohli will take over the reins as India fight it out against sub-contintental rivals Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan during the two-week tournament.
“He has informed the BCCI that he has a pain in his side and that he is still unsure whether he can travel to Bangladesh next week. Virat will be leading the side at the Asia Cup,” a BCCI official said.
Sanjay Patel, BCCI secretary, told The Indian Express that Dhoni’s injury wasn’t so serious that he would miss the upcoming World T20 in Bangladesh. “It isn’t serious. He picked up the injury during the third day of the second Test against New Zealand. The team physio submitted his report and then a second physio, the NCA physio, was consulted, and accordingly the decision was taken. He would be available for the World T20,” Patel said.
The enforced break though could very well be a blessing in disguise for the beleagured Indian skipper. His leadership has come under heavy fire of late following the disastrous tour to New Zealand, where Dhoni & Co failed to win a single international match—not to forget his abysmal record away from home over the last few years. At the same time, the 33-year-old has also been playing non-stop cricket for close to seven months. And the two weeks off prior to the World T20, also in Bangladesh, will be an opportunity for the experienced skipper to fight off his fatigue, both physical and mental.
This will also be a chance for Kohli to showcase his captaincy credentials. While many experts have called for the youngster to step in as captain even in Tests, this will be his first major ODI assignment after he had led India to a 5-0 win in a series in Zimbabwe last year.
Kohli surely won’t have it as easy as he did in Zimbabwe, considering the circumstances in which he will be taking over the leadership role. India were thrashed by both New Zealand and South Africa in the one-dayers before the Test matches on those respective tours and his side have more than just pride to play for in Bangladesh.
And what will make matters worse for this rookie captain is the fact that his side, minus Dhoni the finisher, will be taking on the Asian powerhouses in conditions rather suitable for their exploits.
Meanwhile, Dhoni will be replaced behind the stumps by Dinesh Karthik, who recently hit back-to-back centuries in the ongoing Corporate Trophy for India Cements.
‘Can’t afford to fail again’
Sourav Ganguly believes it is only experience that forces MS Dhoni to remain as captain for India’s tour of England and Australia, countries in which they got blanked in Test cricket the last time around, later this year.
“If he fails again, then it’s time to bring a new captain,” Ganguly said. “He has to be bold in taking decisions. He needs to take risks to win. Sometimes, his decisions are negative.”
(With PTI inputs)