Many names have faded away and many have been replaced, in both our lives and cricket. In cricket, even the once-considered-non-replaceable Sachin Tendulkar has found a successor in Virat Kohli. The legendary Anil Kumble has vacated the scene but Ashwin Ravichandran leads the spinning unit now. As the saying goes, ‘only change is permanent’. But the problem lies in finding the exact replacement. A perfect example is the case of WestIndies cricket team where there is still no replacement found for Brian Lara, Ambrose and Walsh.
Till 2004, the easily replaceable spot in the Indian squad was that of the wicket-keeper. This was easily visible as Rahul Dravid was tried as the makeshift wicket keeper from 2002-2004. India had tested many wicket-keepers from 1998 till 2002 and as nothing worked came the decision to try Dravid. And then Dhoni came onto the scene. He had that aura around him which showed that he was special. He was the right choice to be behind the stumps. Later on, he proved to be too good in front of the stumps too. He stormed into the headlines with unorthodox, hard hitting batting. He was soon the poster-boy of Indian cricket.
Then came the captaincy. He led India admirably well and still continues to do so. It is under his leadership that we have won 2 World Cups( T20 and 50-over) and still his wicket- keeping or batting levels have not dipped due to the captaincy. Now that he is already 35, it is well known that his services can maximum be available till 2019. Naturally, he will call it a day on or before 2019. But the question is, “WHO AFTER DHONI?”.
This question first needs to be analyzed before getting into names. We are looking at replacing a wicket-keeper, a batsman, a team coordinator and an experienced shrewd thinker. Let us leave the captaincy mantle safely to Kohli for now. We may look at the available list of wicket-keepers before zeroing in on one, but how many of them are great batsmen – very few. And how many of them can provide that stability to the batting in case of a collapse? – None. This is because Dhoni is that all-in-one combo player. After 2007, we can have a look at every match Dhoni was a part of and he would have had his part in the result of every game, in any one department. This is the missing part of the jiggle.
Now let us look at the possible replacements. Saha, Samson and KL Rahul are the leading contenders to the throne. But Saha has to be over-looked due to his age and also that his style of batting may not fit the shorter formats as much as the tests. Now on the line are Samson and Rahul. Samson has not been setting the domestic scene on fire and all the promise during his initial IPL days seem to be fading away. He cannot just walk into the Indian cricket team. Until he performs consistently and strongly in domestic cricket, Samson will find it difficult to fill in the boots of Dhoni.
Next comes KL Rahul, with his swash-buckling looks and style. He already has proved his worth in batting. He also has that aura around him. Probably he will have to work on his fitness and wicket-keeping skills. In other words, KL Rahul seems to be the one fit to replace Dhoni among the available lot. But still, Rahul can never bring to the table what Dhoni does.
Probably with time, Rahul can develop into a better package, but honestly he cannot replace Dhoni inch-by-inch. There will be a void which Dhoni will leave when he quits, and believe me, none can fill the void cent percent. Let us celebrate Dhoni when he is still available. Let us be proud of having something which no other cricketing nation has.