MS Dhoni to Step Up as Player-Coach?

Mithileysh Sathiyanarayanan is an England National Cricket League (NCL) player and a cricket enthusiast.

London: Is it possible for the BCCI and CAC to give MS Dhoni the player-coach status?

 

Dhoni sharing his inputs to Kohli

source: http://images.deccanchronicle.com/dc-Cover-1g711rq55rms3r8imtg8o6otl1-20170107105046.Medi.jpeg

After some tumultuous weeks in Indian cricket, the news of Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble controversy broke out and has left a bad taste in the mouths of the cricketing fraternity. This dispute itself cost us the Champions trophy which will be remembered for years to come.

Now that Anil Kumble has reportedly stepped down as India’s cricket coach, this sad ending of Anil Kumble raises a couple of questions “Who is going to be the next coach of the Indian cricket team?” and “Is it possible for the BCCI and CAC to give Dhoni the player-coach status?” – a very interesting segment indeed!

MS Dhoni has captained the Indian team for almost a decade. He emerged as India’s most successful captain along with his wicket keeping and batting skills. Let us get some insights!

Dhoni as a Captain

The 35-year-old former captain from Ranchi captained India in 331 international matches across all formats with a winning percentage of over 50. Dhoni has won the maximum number of test matches as an Indian captain. He is the only captain to win all three major ICC limited-over tournaments. Under the leadership of Dhoni, India won the 2007 World T20, the 2011 ODI World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. He led India in six finals of limited-over tournaments involving five or more teams of which India won four which is the most by any captain for a team in limited-over internationals. Moreover, his strategies on the field have helped us win a number of series in India and abroad. Interestingly, Dhoni is the only player to captain a country in six editions of the World T20.

Dhoni as a Player

He has taken 571 catches and effected 155 stumpings in the international games he has played so far. His lightening quick stumpings, run outs and brilliance behind the wickets keeps even the fastest of players on tenterhooks. As far as his batting exploits are concerned, Dhoni, a middle-order batsman has emerged as one of the biggest match-finishers for India averaging over 50 in 291 ODI matches.

Dhoni as a Mentor

Dhoni has not been appointed officially as a mentor of the Indian cricket team but he came in as mentor for Jharkhand for the initial games in the Ranji Trophy 2016. Dhoni’s relationship with the youngsters in the Jharkhand and Indian team shows us he has the experience and knowledge of getting the best out of the players. Some of the instances are:

  1. Ishan Kishan of Jharkhand had lofty praises for Dhoni for helping him with the batting and wicket keeping. The former captain had discussed the shot selections and how to pace and build an inning. This helped Ishan to score 800 runs in 10 matches at an average of 57.07.
  2. Hardik Pandya eulogised Dhoni at various interviews and media interactions. Recently, he mentioned about Dhoni “I remember one incident when I asked him how to finish the game. And he (Dhoni) said that you need to make sure you look at the scoreboard. You need to make sure you see the situations and play accordingly. That way I have noticed that you don’t put pressure on yourself,” Pandya also mentioned how he improved as a finisher and also in his shot selections after productive discussions with MS.
  3. Kedar Jadhav after an impressive performance in the ICC Champions trophy semi-final clash against Bangladesh mentioned “From the time I have been in this Indian team, I have been spending a lot of time with MS Dhoni, trying to soak in all the knowledge he has. I share a bond with him and I can read from his eyes as to what he wants me to bowl, I just try to bowl that delivery. And it works,” Jadhav is the quintessential product of Dhoni and Jadhav’s revelation made it clear what role the former India captain played in fine tuning the strategy for Kohli.

Besides in the ongoing 2017 West Indies tour, youngster Rishabh Pant has been included in the 15-man squad and he was seen taking valuable advice from the former captain MS Dhoni. The 19-year old Pant, known for his hard-hitting batting, had a brilliant run rate in the IPL and the domestic games. However, it will be interesting to see if he gets an opportunity to play in the series against Windies or not. Even if he doesn’t get a chance in the Playing XI, still spending time and getting mentored by some like Dhoni will surely help Pant improve his game and confidence. If Pant could just pick up some basic skills from the great man, it could do wonders to his career.

For almost a decade, we have seen Dhoni suggesting and giving pep talks to youngsters in the Indian team, both on and off the field. Also, we have seen him setting the field by understanding one’s strengths and weakness. In addition to all these, cricketers Ashwin, Jadeja, Rohit, Raina and Kohli were supported by Dhoni at various points of their career lows. Now their performance bears witness to the support they received from MS. This makes it very evident that he can be a good player-coach.

Moreover, other facts such as Dhoni-Kohli share a very good relationship both on and off the field is very apparent from their talks and actions. After taking over the captaincy from Dhoni, Kohli has often turned to the former for advice in tough situations. Virat has also been vocal about Dhoni’s contribution which rules out the possibility of ego-clashes between these two. In the Champions Trophy, Dhoni was seen giving throwdowns to Virat and he never had any problems in doing such things for the team. These facts clearly show that Dhoni has effectively tackled the roles and responsibilities of a coach in a team set-up.

More Claims

Virat Kohli’s childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma said the Indian cricket team won’t be affected by the absence of Anil Kumble as the presence of MS Dhoni will help the youngsters in overcoming hardships as he has the knowledge of a coach and the knack to bring the best out of his players.

India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar revealed that “MS Dhoni has been mentoring the Indian team after he stepped down from the captaincy and he is doing a lot of things behind the scene. He is helping, supporting and guiding the players. It’s not only the coaching staff, but MS is mentoring the team. It’s the wealth of ideas which is of benefit through interactions,”.

Author’s Take

Considering all his experience – with over 450 international games for the country and the experience of leading them for almost decade, Dhoni is the man to guide the youngsters by his side. He has the confidence of skipper Virat Kohli and the tips he provides prove to be valuable. Given all the facts, should Dhoni be India’s player-coach? – this will be an interesting debate among cricket die-hards. While the selection process for the next coach is going on, why not have the former Indian captain MS Dhoni as a player-coach for the Indian cricket team? Many will contest that lack of experience is an issue but Anil Kumble did not have any experience either but his understanding and assessment of the game was instrumental in the superior cricket season in India in the last one year.

Some of the interesting real facts of player-coach in cricket:

  • Ryan Harris, former Australia cricketer, acted as a player-coach and helped Australia to prepare for a series of matches against India A and South Africa A in 2014.
  • Grant Flower, former Zimbabwe cricketer, was both player and a coach of Zimbabwe in 2010.
  • Azhar Mahmood, former Pakistan player, played and coached Surrey in the domestic Twenty20 championship in 2016.
  • To say the least, former Indian pace bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji was appointed as the bowling coach of the Tamil Nadu Ranji team in 2015-16, while he was also in the playing XI.

Some of the real facts of player-coach in other sports:

  • Ryan Giggs was the interim player-manager/coach for football club Manchester United in 2014, while Peter Reid was in-charge of Manchester City from 1990-1993.
  • Basketball legend Bill Russell also served as a player-coach for Boston Celtics from 1966-69.

There are many more interesting real facts that will help us take a deep breath of relief that Dhoni can be a player-coach for the Indian cricket team.

Sanjay Bangar’s recent interview reveals the fact that the players are not feeling the absence of a coach and this speaks volumes about the value of Dhoni in the team. He is not only the stronghold of the middle order and finisher, but is also the guiding force which shapes the future of Indian cricket. His presence is especially valuable to youngsters like Rishabh Pant who gained unique insights into his wicket keeping ability with Dhoni’s support. Furthermore the Dhoni-Kohli partnership has been working wonders for the Men in Blue as the duo come up with interesting ideas to overcome tricky situations.

There is a downside though as a conflict of interest could occur when his own form is in debate or certain tough decisions need to be taken. If Dhoni becomes a head coach, let us hope it will not affect his game. Certainly his calm and cool head will do the magic for India’s success. In fact, this would help in keeping the dressing environment pleasant, joyous and stable. Taking into consideration all the facts, is it possible for the BCCI and CAC to think out of the box and give Dhoni the player-coach status? – let us hope for the best!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Cricket 361°. They do not accept any responsibility or liability for the same.

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