Calcutta: Ian Chappell feels Virat Kohli should replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India’s Test captain as the incumbent is defensive and lets the game “meander along like an absent-minded professor strolling in the park.”
Chappell is not the first one to call for Dhoni’s removal. Mohinder Amarnath and Martin Crowe had earlier said that it’s high time India looked beyond Dhoni.
Former national selector Amarnath had said the time has come to remove Dhoni from captaincy because his defensive approach was the reason behind India’s prolonged failure on foreign soil.
Crowe, on the other hand, had said Dhoni “needs to take a break at some point by not captaining the Test side for the period leading into the 2015 World Cup.”
Chappell argued for Kohli’s elevation as early as possible after India’s shambolic tour of New Zealand in which the team failed to register a single victory across formats.
“Dhoni is a brilliant captain in the shorter versions of the game, and a master at timing his run to the finishing line as a middle-order batsman.
“However, as a Test captain, he’s too reactive and has a tendency to let the game meander along, like an absent-minded professor strolling in the park,” Chappell wrote in a column for ESPNCricinfo.
“His conservatism allows the better players among opposition batsmen too much freedom and too many easy runs. Consequently, big partnerships, like the match-saving one by Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling, build too often,” the former Australia captain said, referring to the drawn second Test in Wellington which India seemed like winning at one stage.
“Dhoni really should have been replaced as Test captain following India’s disastrous tours of England and Australia in 2011-12, when his team displayed little fight in losing eight matches on the trot.”
Chappell said Dhoni seems to lack ideas when the team flounders. “When a captain starts to hinder his team, he needs to be replaced.
During that horror patch, Dhoni was unable to inspire his team and looked like a skipper just going through the motions.
“There’s no doubt that a captain — even the best of them — can stay on too long, to the point where he loses his team,” he explained.
“Dhoni did bounce back when he orchestrated a convincing whitewash of Australia at home. There’s no question he’s a better captain under familiar conditions. He’s at his best with spinners operating regularly, whereas when conditions are more in tune with seamers, he struggles.
“In fairness to the selectors, not replacing Dhoni following the disaster in Australia was understandable, as a number of senior players retired and the alternatives were few,” Chappell said.
According to Chappell, Kohli has the aggression, which is needed to fire up a team in trying circumstances. “A suitable alternative is now available in Kohli.
“He has leadership experience as captain of Indian youth teams and, importantly, he’s now of the right age and has matured into a top-class batsman.
“Besides, he has shown his mettle overseas by scoring runs in difficult arenas like the WACA and the Bullring,” he said.
“This is the sort of inspiration India need to boost their overseas record. However, what they need even more is a proactive captain who can get the best out of his bowlers when playing in unfamiliar conditions,” he added.
“Kohli is an aggressive batsman, but that doesn’t automatically mean he’ll captain in the same manner. Ricky Ponting was an aggressive stroke-maker nicknamed “Punter”, but as captain, he didn’t take his gambling instincts on to the field.”
Chappell said once given the job, Kohli would have to show a lot of courage in decision-making. “Kohli needs to be brave as an India captain.
“Instead of placing defensive fields for Ishant Sharma’s wayward deliveries, he has to challenge him by deploying men designed to aid the bowler, as long as the latter maintains line and length.
“If Ishant can’t oblige him, he has to find another bowler who can.
“While Dhoni’s tendency to rely on batsmen making mistakes and getting themselves out works brilliantly in the shorter forms of the game, the ploy is often exposed as flawed when gritty opponents like McCullum mount a counter-attack in Test matches,” he said.
“Dhoni’s latest injury may be fortuitous. It gives the selectors a chance to evaluate Kohli’s leadership credentials in the one-day arena, and if he’s successful, they should appoint him Test captain,” he added.