Despite leading a formidable bunch of limited-over specialists it will now be a different challenge for Mahendra Singh Dhoni when he captains a new-look Indian cricket team against Zimbabwe in the first ODI of a short series starting at Harare on Saturday.
Over the years, the series’ held in Zimbabwe has always featured limited-overs matches played post the IPL with the BCCI sending its second-string team to test the bench strength.
But then those second string outfits have, in fact, effected back-to-back whitewashes of 5-0 and 3-0 over the Zimbabweans in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
It was supposed to be no different this time around as well. The fifteen member squad comprises as many as five uncapped players (including KL Rahul, who is yet to make his limited-overs debut) but it has gained special significance because of Dhoni, who will be playing in the African nation after 11 long years.
The last time when Dhoni played in Zimbabwe was back in 2005, when his international career was barely six months old with a certain Sourav Ganguly in charge of the ‘Men in Blue’.
But times have changed now as post Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket coupled with Virat Kohli’s Bradmanesque form in the past six months calls have come for the former’s removal from captaincy.
While the pressure may not be that high on Dhoni still tours like the current one are the proverbial ‘banana peel’ for any top cricketer.
Though a series win will never be feted as it is something that everyone expects to be accomplished but still at the same time any unexpected result would send shock waves that the Jharkhand dasher just would not fancy at the moment.
With India having a Test heavy home schedule this year with a few ODIs and T20s against New Zealand and England, this is Dhoni’s last chance to be in the mix as he won’t be playing a lot in the next few months. India will be embarking on a Test tour of the Caribbean after this assignment.
If one has a look at the team, the gulf between Dhoni and the rest of the squad will stand out for anyone who cares. While Dhoni has played a total of 275 ODIs, the rest of the squad cumulatively has only 83 matches to their credit.