MAHENDRA Singh Dhoni had a phenomenal career as captain and one of the highlights of his leadership tenure was the apt handling of senior players in the team, said current India coach Anil Kumble who himself had made way for the wicket-keeper batsman to be Test captain in 2008.
Dhoni succeeded Kumble as Test captain after the leg-spin legend announced his retirement midway into home series against Australia in 2008.
Kumble recalled the time when Dhoni was made captain in all three formats.
“The first phase was probably easy for me because I was old, it was easy for me to say ‘MS take over’. It was difficult for me to continue at that time, the body was not willing but I thought it was the right time for me to leave as well. MS (Dhoni) was ready to take over Test captaincy,” said Kumble ahead of the first ODI against England here on Sunday.
Dhoni’s glorious tenure as captain began with the World T20 triumph in 2007.
“From there to 2007 to 2017, 10 years of captaincy is phenomenal. It goes to show the capabilities of MS as a leader and also what he has been able to achieve during the transition phase and also when the seniors left as well, it is not easy coming into the team as captain and having so many senior players. He managed them really well.
“He (Dhoni) not just got the best out of them but also got the best for the team. Both as number one Test side and later on winning the World Cup and then Champions Trophy and many other victories, he has been part of,” he said referring to the time when the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid played under Dhoni.
Kumble lauded Dhoni for the timing of stepping down from captaincy.
“In this team, besides Yuvi, everybody else has started their careers under MS. So that is the kind of transition he has seen. It has been phenomenal to be able to achieve what he has been able to achieve.
“We all know the value that he brings as a player and as a batsman and keeper and of course his value on the field.
“It is never easy to take a call. Hats off to him. That shows how selfless he is and he probably thought it was the right time for Virat to take over. Like how I felt back then it was the right time for MS to come in, it is great for the team to have MS on the field with Virat leading the side.
“Like I mentioned, Virat came into the side when MS was captain, so the bonhomie and bond that they shared will only help Virat grow as a leader. And Virat has shown the exceptional quality he has and what he brings to the team, both as an individual and leader. We have seen the results under him in Test format and I am sure he will be equally good in one-day format,” said Kumble.
He said Dhoni remains a leader in the team.
“MS has been one of the best captains that we have had. Hats off to him and congratulations to him for what he has done as captain. Now looking forward to MS as the batsman and keeper and as a leader. He is still a leader in the team,” Kumble added.
Dhoni has made it amply clear that he would like to bat at four and with Yuvraj Singh back in the squad, it remains to be seen who the team management picks to bat at 4,5,6.
“I don’t think it is the right for me to discuss the team combination. Like you mentioned it is a good choice that we have in the squad with Yuvi coming back into the team. We all know what he is capable of. Having said that, both Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav in that slot have done well. It is nice to have choices, there is competition in the team and that is what you want. All 15 members are available for selection,” said Kumble.
He also acknowledged there is not much room for experimentation with the Champions Trophy in June.
“At any given point of time, you want to field your best team on the park and we would like to do that considering that each game is a knock out in the Champions Trophy. That is the mindset players and the team have. There is not much experimentation or much practice in terms of combinations and in terms of what you would like to be prepared with but no tournament you can say that this is the ideal preparation that you would want. Whatever we have we will try and get the most out of it.”
He sounded confident when asked whether the team would able to replicate the recent success in Tests in limited overs format.
“We would like to think that is the only preparation we have before the Champions Trophy so it is important that we start off a good note.
“It is good to comeback into the one day mode. We have played a lot of Test cricket, which is good and we have had great results over the last year and would like to start the new year on a good note.
“The preparations (of Test and one-dayers)) are not that dissimilar but yes you need to bring in a lot more intensity and energy with the way we practice and what we try and do with certain batsmen and bowlers.”
He felt dew in the series won’t be a big factor.
“Yesterday we practised till about 7.30. There was not much dew. The games are starting one hour earlier than what it used to be so when the dew comes into effect, it comes in the last one hour. But this has been there for a long time. That is why it is important that we adapt to whatever conditions are there. That is why we prepare our bowlers to bowl with a wet ball,” Kumble concluded.