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MS Dhoni vs Virat Kohli: Start of a turf-war in Indian cricket?

By Dattaraj Thaly | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 00:00
 
Dattaraj Thaly
Different Take
 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's comments in his post-match press conference after India slumped to their second successive defeat against Bangladesh caused quite a stir back home.

Dhoni-baiters were out in full force, some asking for the ODI skipper's head while others wanting him to voluntarily step down.

With a successor in sight, there is a clamour for passing of the baton to Virat Kohli in ODIs as well.

Suddenly the iceman of Indian cricket seems to be left out in the cold, especially since his staunch backer N Srinivasan no longer governs cricket with an iron fist.

With Srinivasan's influence and importance on the decline, dissenters have found back their voice.

It is hardly surprising that former cricket administrators like Raja Venkat have suddenly felt the need to reveal what goes on behind the closed BCCI doors.

Ever since Anurag Thakur pipped Sanjay Patel to the post of BCCI secretary during the Indian board's election, there has been a sea change in the functioning of the world's most powerful cricket board.

The election of Thakur has considerably diluted Srinivasan's hold on the cricket politics in India. Along with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the BJP MP is now leading the new era of Indian cricket on and off the pitch.

Thakur is now de-facto boss despite the Marwari businessman from Kolkata occupying the BCCI hot seat as a consensus candidate.

In India, politics and cricket are often inseparable. There is a growing possibility that Kohli and Dhoni could end up being pawns in this game of thrones between Thakur and Srinivasan.

The Dalmiya-Thakur combine has already began surgically wielding out remnants of the previous regime. While logistics manager M A Satheesh and chief financial officer Prasanna Kannan's contracts were terminated, team media manager Dr R N Baba wasn't part of the tour party to Bangladesh.

BCCI also refused to pay for the travel of Srinivasan loyalists Sundar Raman, Sanjay Patel and Anirudh Chaudhary​ to ICC's annual conference in Barbados.

In a sense, Dhoni represents the final imprint of the Tamil Nadu strongman's legacy. Hence, the possibility of the new establishment turning their attention towards Dhoni next cannot be ruled out with certainty.

Heir apparent Kohli is already being propped up by certain sections in the Indian board for ODI captaincy post the Bangladesh debacle.

Reports of a rift between Dhoni and Kohli first began to emerge during the Australian summer. Post Dhoni's retirement from Tests, there was a clear demarcation of their roles and responsibilities going forward.

The rumour mill is now churning overtime and word has it that two captains have two different visions for Team India, thereby sending out mixed signals to the rest of the team.

Dhoni's coach has gone on record to suggest the team atmosphere in the dressing room is not as per the liking of his most famous pupil.

Many believe Team India, riddled with cliques, is now a divided house. Nothing asserts this fact more than Dhoni loyalists Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina publicly springing to the defense of their CSK skipper. MSD is clearly feeling the heat.

Dhoni has made his intentions of leading the team at least up to the World T20 on home soil very clear.

He could get ousted as part of collateral damage in the aftermath of the warring Indian cricket administrators. Considering his obsession with the army, the 33-year-old will be well aware of the possibility of a potential coup ahead of that World Cup.

There is a stark contrast between the philosophies of India's ODI and Test skippers. While Dhoni is an ardent advocate of focusing on the process, the Kohli doctrine for Indian cricket's success prescribes focus on performance.

While Dhoni virtually slammed the door shut on the ousted veterans of Indian cricket, Kohli by recalling Harbhajan Singh to the Test side, has showed a willingness to budge from the stand taken by his predecessor.

Having one foot already in the door, Kohli would relish the prospect of being handed over the captaincy of Indian cricket in T20s and ODIs too. It is too early to judge whether his cavalier approach will deliver the desired results for Indian cricket.

In this bid to settle personal scores, the Indian board must make sure the baton is passed and not snatched.

First Published: Saturday, June 27, 2015 - 18:33

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