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All is not well in Paradise

Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, currently the two largest stars of Indian cricket, represent two completely different styles, which like water and oil cannot mix well. One is known for his composure and temperament and the other, for the lack of it. One is the rising star of Indian cricket, the other in the twilight of his career.

With the recent results of the Bangladesh series, the allegations of his conflict of interest in owning a sizable stake in Rhiti Sports Management that looks after several Indian cricketers, and his proximity to N Srinivasan and Gurunath Meiyappan, the halo around MS Dhoni no longer remains. Yet, his legacy is such that every future Indian captain will hope to live up to.

Virat Kohli, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength. As a batsman, he is often compared to Sachin Tendulkar and that is perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to a batsman. His captaincy, under which India won the Sri Lanka series after being 1 down, that too in Sri Lanka. Virat Kohli comes in with no baggage of a dismal overseas record. Such contrasting styles are bound to be confusing for the Indian players and side.

While the personnel of the team remains more or less same, the personality of the team changes. Dhoni’s India is pragmatic, calm under pressure and focuses more on the process than on the result.

Kohli’s India is aggressive and goes for the kill, it’s a side that doesn’t hold back anything . The Indian side under Kohli, unlike the past Indian teams under captains- Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble, Dhoni, not only looked comfortable but reveled in the sledging and the aggression.

Kohli and Dhoni
Kohli and Dhoni congratulate each other after the win against Bangladesh in the first ODI. © AFP

Even more alarming were the comments that Kohli made after the Bangladesh series on Dhoni’s captaincy which have been widely interpreted as critical. While the exact nature of those comments can be debated, the remarks are symptomatic of the rift between the two strong personalities.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that there isn’t any mutual respect between Dhoni and Kohli. For it was Dhoni, under whom Kohli got his big break. And it was the run making machine Kohli, that made Dhoni’s India a formidable side. Having said that, this kind of a rift, even if it is just ideological, never bodes well for the team.

A case in point, the last time a rift was present in the Indian team in 2006, when Sourav Ganguly’s form and Greg Chappell’s coaching style made things not only uncomfortable in the dressing room but the rift soon snowballed into a full out spat being played out in the media. The rift was a disaster not only for the morale of the Indian team but also for India’s 2007 World Cup campaign. While the current situation will unlikely sour to that extent, it does exhibit signs that the transition is not without the bitterness.

Chappell, Ganguly, Dravid
A tumultuous time in Indian cricket. Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle
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