India's multi-faceted stalwart: Why MS Dhoni's replacement will be hard to find
Indian cricket pulled off a major surprise when MS Dhoni was left out of their T20I squad for the 3-match series against Windies as well as Australia. Having been an integral part of the ODI and T20I teams for a long period of time, his omission from the shortest format caused a shock.
While many showed their rage against Dhoni's exclusion, the selection committee said that the decision was taken by the team management and aimed at keeping the future in mind. Well, it's the need of the hour that the former skipper's fans should accustom themselves with such a situation. Soon, they will be witnessing one of the all-time greats bidding adieu. For the selectors, they could find it tough to find a suitable replacement for the wicket-keeper batsman.
Tough task at hand for the selectors
With Dhoni's departure, an era of Indian cricket will come to an end. This will also provide an opportunity for young players to fill the void created by the iconic cricketer's absence. For filling this void, the team management and the selectors will have to work in collaboration to form a stable team.
This is because the veteran from Ranchi played three very crucial roles for the team during his heydays. Aside from being a reliable wicket-keeper, he has also been a dependable batsman, a sound judge of the DRS and a leader adept at handling pressure.
Dhoni was not only one of the most successful captains who brought many laurels to the nation but has also been an amazing finisher capable of handling the pressure of death overs like no one. Along with these, his unorthodox wicket-keeping skills amalgamated with swiftness make him a proficient gloveman. There are numerous instances when he has completed a stumping before the blink of an eye, showing his alacrity at this age as well.
Searching for India's next death-overs finisher
The options available for the taking up the job of a finisher for India in ODIs and T20s are Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kedhar Jadhav, and Krunal Pandya. Out of these options, the player who will be most apropos as a finisher will be Karthik.
Going by his recent performances and since the World Cup is approaching as well, India would want Karthik to consolidate this position and build more confidence in the upcoming ODI series against Australia.
Karthik will be also preferred over other options because of his glovework which could prove very handy. Hardik Pandya is recovering from an injury suffered during Asia Cup 2018. Jadhav, who has performed well with both bat and ball, has suffered frequent injuries in his career thus far. On the other hand, Krunal Pandya may need some more time to showcase what he has to offer with the bat. So the only feasible option left is Karthik.
Guarding the wickets
When Dhoni commenced his career, no one would have imagined the type of performances which he has delivered with the gloves and preventing the need to look for an alternate wicket-keeping option for over a decade.
After Dhoni stepped out of the Test arena, the selectors anointed Wriddhiman Saha as the chosen one. The man from Bengal has performed remarkably well with the gloves so far. But his batting is not suited for limited-overs cricket. Some of the other options like Parthiv Patel and Naman Ojha haven't been able to deliver to the expectations.
During the England tour, India gave a chance to young and fearless wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant. While his destructive batting potential is promising, his wicket-keeping skills have looked quite ordinary thus far.
Pant's temperament will prove to be the barrier between his success and failure. He does possess the talent but he should understand his role. If he can become reliable with both bat and gloves, India will have their new explosive wicket-keeper.
Providing assistance in Captaincy
Dhoni has never refrained from giving his valuable insights of the game to skipper Virat Kohli even after he released himself from the duties of captain. He has always offered his advice during the match regarding field placements, bowling changes and usage of the DRS.
Most importantly, spinners in the team have shared their experiences where they have mentioned that the man behind the stumps is the main reason for their success. Young spinners like Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are always provided with the necessary guidance by Dhoni on what the batsman is trying to do and how they should be responding.
When we look at the team's performances in the absence of Kohli and Dhoni, Rohit Sharma has emerged as a leader who can manage the resources and cope with the pressure commendably.
Rohit will take time to reach the level of Dhoni's captaincy acumen. But India can be assured of at least getting the desired results in a convincing way. Moreover, the opener can also play the role of deputy leader and provide extra advice in crunch situations to skipper Kohli.
Having looked at how Dhoni has served Indian cricket over the last decade, it will not be easy for the selectors and the team management to find a ready-made replacement for the stalwart when he announces his retirement from the game.
In the meantime, the selectors should also start identifying other young wicket-keeper batsmen who can prove to be handy assets in the near future. Although the game continues to move forward, India could find it incredibly tough to produce another Dhoni.