As he watched Virat Kohli guide India to the brink of a historic win at Adelaide, it’s very likely that MS Dhoni’s mind must have wavered back to Dominica 2011. Back then he had sat in the dressing-room in Roseau with new coach Duncan Fletcher and called off a very achievable target despite India being ahead in the series and with a stellar batting line-up still at their disposal.
Here, he was seeing a young captain not just shun all pessimism in search of what was presumed to be an improbable target but also reshape the ideology of the Indian team’s thinking in Test cricket.
That decision to abort the run-chase in Dominica in many ways defined the Dhoni school of Test captaincy on foreign soil, eliminate all risks of losing and then if still possible go for a win. Kohli had eclipsed it by adopting a new approach, win at all costs. And as he took back the reins, Dhoni admitted that his potential successor was not the most conformist.
“He is an aggressive character and slightly different to what I am but at the end of the day you don’t want all individuals to captain the same way. Because in that you miss the character of the individual and that’s special about him,” he explained.
The difference in philosophies between Dhoni and Kohli became even more obvious as the session went on. After Adelaide, Kohli had defended the selection of Karn Sharma while confessing that opting for a leg-spinner as an attacking option had been his personal choice. On Tuesday, Dhoni spoke about the advantages of going in with Ashwin. Interestingly, he never spoke much about his leading off-spinner’s skills with the ball. Instead he focused more on Ashwin’s ability to bat.
“Ashwin can bat lower down the order and it’s very important because at times we have seen 8-9, 9-10 or 10-11 (batsmen) lost their wickets very cheaply, which means if there is a batsman, he is not really able to accelerate. But with Ashwin, if he is around, he can be a bit of a help,” is how Dhoni spoke about the chief reasons for including Ashwin in Brisbane.
Incidentally he even revealed the reasons for which Ashwin himself wasn’t being preferred over Ravindra Jadeja, who misses out due to a shoulder impingement, away from home. “We felt Jadeja was a better option because he can keep one end tight. He is a more accurate bowler, he will keep bowling in the same areas and that was slightly favouring Jadeja more than Ashwin,” he said.
Back in Dominica, Dhoni had opted to skip speaking to the media, sending coach Fletcher instead the music. By the third time he was asked about the call to withdraw, Fletcher had lost his cool. “Huh .. I have covered it. I have been repeating myself the whole time. I have told you it was difficult to score runs,” Fletcher said.
Here, Dhoni endorsed Kohli’s approach towards the target, insisting that it was the right one. “It was the right approach. We went for the target which I feel was very important and also if you see the kind of partnership that was built. Unfortunately we lost some quick wickets when Vijay got out. It was very difficult for us to come back and draw the game. The only approach would have been to win the game from there,” he said.