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Captain Kohli goes gaga over Dhoni

Captain Kohli goes gaga over Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni gears up for the training session. AFP

Rohit Mahajan

Manchester, July 8

‘Last match, last match, last match.’
That’s the silent clamour around MS Dhoni.

People look at Dhoni, the greatest Indian limited-overs captain, with wistful eyes. He could be gone soon.

He’s not talking, but he could walk away soon, saying his goodbyes with just a brief press statement released through the media.

Dhoni last played for India in India at his home, Ranchi, on March 8. There are expectations that he would play the last time for India at the home of cricket, the Lord’s ground in London, on July 14, in the final of the World Cup.

There are indications that Dhoni is on the last lap — he’s been using bats with different brand names on them because he wants to say “thank you” to different bat manufacturers who supported him at different stages of his career. “He does not need money, he has enough of it, he is using those bats as a goodwill gesture,” said his manager, Arun Pandey. “Bade dil ka aadmi hai — he’s a man with a large heart.”

Birthday tribute

On his 38th birthday yesterday, the International Cricket Council posted a video that praised the legacy of Dhoni, hailing him as: “A name that changed the face of Indian cricket. A name inspiring millions across the globe. A name with an undeniable legacy, MS Dhoni — not just a name!”

That’s true — but that’s the name, the same name that inspired and inspires; the player, though, isn’t quite the same. He hit the most famous six in India’s ODI history, the six that won India the World Cup in Mumbai in 2011. But there’s been a decline, and analysts — analysts, don’t call them critics! — believe that he’s probably past it.

Questions have been asked about his ‘slow’ batting. Today Virat Kohli was asked to comment on Dhoni, in the context of the team possibly planning something special to send him off.

Kohli was glad the question wasn’t about the “slowness” of Dhoni’s batting. Yet again Kohli was glad to talk about Dhoni’s personality, his greatness as a leader.

Respect!

“I’m sure everyone… will have special things to say. And especially for us who started our careers under him,” Kohli said. “The respect will always be there because of the opportunities that he gave us and the faith that he showed in us and the way he’s handled the whole team in transition over so many years. And now we are the ones who are taking Indian cricket forward. We understand the importance of that process. So I’m glad you asked about MS, the personality, because a lot has been in focus otherwise.”

Brains Trust

Dhoni is often called the brains of the team; Kohli is indeed happy to let Dhoni handle the team and the field placements in the middle, especially in the later stages of the opposition’s innings. Kohli said Dhoni is always there for him, when he needs advice.

“I go ask him anything, he’s there giving me advice and he’s never shying away from that,” Kohli said. “So yeah, he’s been outstanding and I’m delighted that I have been able to play for so many years alongside him.”

Kohli sure is getting more and more effusive in his praise of his former captain. Perhaps he can see the end of the road. Perhaps the time to part isn’t far away.

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