ndia vs West Indies: Did Virat Kohli break trend by dropping young Rishabh Pant for MS Dhoni? – To borrow a phrase often used by Ravi Shastri, as India captain Virat Kohli gives two hoots about reputation while picking playing XI. Form takes precedence, while the term horses for courses takes centre stage.
Think of Rohit Sharma replacing Ajinkya Rahane in the Test series against South Africa earlier this year, or Cheteshwar Pujara making way for KL Rahul for the first Test against England. In both these cases, One-Day form overshadowed the tag of being a Test specialist, and Kohli had no issues breaking the trend.
On Monday, though, Kohli broke a trend himself by dropping Rishabh Pant from the playing XI to make way for Kedar Jadhav in the fourth ODI against the West Indies here.
The selection move was less about Pant and more about MS Dhoni, the former India captain who is fighting ever-growing perceptions and questions about his remaining time in Team India colours.
The clouds of uncertainty intensified last week when the selectors ignored the veteran for India’s next two T20I series against the West Indies and Australia, coming at the backdrop of Pant’s promising start to his international career.
However, by dropping Pant — the second wicketkeeper in the squad and one of the most exciting talents in Indian cricket right now — in the ODI team, Kohli and the Indian team management have played their part in blowing away those clouds hovering around Dhoni.
Perhaps taking a leaf out of his deputy Rohit Sharma’s captaincy book of trusting players, Kohli has reiterated Dhoni as his No. 1 wicketkeeper-batsman in ODI cricket looking ahead to next year’s ICC World Cup in England.
Backing players to the hilt despite sparse returns and paying heed to factors like emotions and status isn’t Kohli’s style of captaincy. Yet, he seems to have made an exception for Dhoni.
And that faith reflected in Dhoni’s little cameo on Monday. Coming in the 44th over with India at a healthy 312/3 and the sparse crowd chanting his name in anticipation of his arrival, the 37-year-old struck a 15-ball 23 that helped swelled the hosts’ total to 377/5.
His short outing comprised running like a hare between the wickets and two back-to-back fours, one scooped over point and the other flicked past short fine leg.
A life thanks to a dropped catch and his eventual tame dismissal in the penultimate over proved that Dhoni is far from returning to his designated role of MSD, the finisher. Yet, he walked back to the dressing room on Monday knowing well that his successor has got his back, at least for the time being.