When India won the fifth one-day international against Australia on January 23, the first man to run out on to the field and congratulate the two batsmen at the crease — Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh Mann crease — was Virat Kohli. One would have expected the Indian captain, M.S. Dhoni, to be doing this.
This is but the latest bit of gamesmanship by Kohli to indicate to Dhoni that his time is up and that he (Kohli) should be leading India instead.
Earlier in the same game, one could see Kohli often going up to the bowlers and offering advice as though he was in charge. And there were other occasions when he spoke to Dhoni, clearly suggesting a field change, which, in most cases, was made.
Dhoni is only a shadow of his former self and this was evident in the painful innings he played on the night. The man who is often touted as the best one-day finished in world cricket did not stay for the finish, holing out after making 34 off 42 balls. At that stage India still needed six runs off four balls.
By contrast, young Pandey made 104 off 81 balls. He put Dhoni to shame, as did Rohit Sharma (99 off 108) and Shikhar Dhawan (78 off 56).
Dhoni has always been conservative out on the field. He never tries to make things go his way, he always waits for them to take their course. To be a little more succinct, he tends to dawdle. What he does, he does four or five overs too late.
Kohli, on the other hand, is an aggressive person by nature, always looking to engineer a dismissal and taking the fight to the opposition. No better illustration was given than in the third one-day match when James Faulkner attempted to rile up Kohli. What Faulkner said was not picked up by the stump microphone, but Kohli’s reply was heard clearly: “You’re wasting your energy. There’s no point, I’ve smashed you enough in my life. Just go and bowl.”
Dhoni would probably have looked the other way if Faulkner had tried to get under his skin.