Dhoni and Kohli are crucial for India's future

Most fans must have thought India could go all the way at the just-concluded World Cup. 

Batsmen looked good to put up a 300-plus-run total on most occasions, bowlers left no stone unturned in search for wickets, and fielders looked sharp to effect 10 run outs, so to say. 

Let’s pause. Isn’t this the same team which had lost the Tests series to Australia and the tri-series against them and England before the World Cup? 

India lost the four-Test series to Australia and failed to reach the tri-series finals, before pleasantly surprising the country with a berth at the World Cup semi-finals

India lost the four-Test series to Australia and failed to reach the tri-series finals, before pleasantly surprising the country with a berth at the World Cup semi-finals

Isn’t it the same side that had been in Australia for four months? 

It was. But the players wanted to see the Australians in the eye. 

Not for once did they take a backward step, be it while improving their skills or getting better in their minds, or trying to bond better. And that’s why they had the support of fans; they trusted them to defend the title. The players trusted themselves. 

In my view, the Australian tour was an unqualified success. I’m not biased; I would have said the same behind the microphone. If the team was bad, it wouldn’t have registered 400-plus totals in each of the four Tests against Australia. 

The players would have looked to shut shop in Adelaide rather than go for that 360-plus target in that first Test. They would have buckled playing four back-to-back Tests in a little over a month. 

While Kohli will be remembered for his four hundreds, Rahane for his silken touch, Vijay for his patience, and K. Rahul for his steel, statistics will never reflect the roots these young saplings have taken to become the banyan trees of tomorrow. 

They had seen their seniors retire. They were asked to walk through the fire of four foreign tours in 2014. They are still on their feet, and are good enough to be around in the next decade too. 

They were all under a banner, so was I. We wanted to turn the corner after the England tour; we wanted to be sure the wheels don’t come off. 

I was in the Indian team’s dressing room after two decades. The game has changed, but players still worry about their performances. You fret how the world would view you today; what kind of fans will turn up in the hotel lobby after a first-ball duck. 

Between airport to airport, hotel to hotel, ground to ground, nets to nets is the sameness that could engulf anyone but the toughest. One still needed to be smart to fill up his free time. 

I see some serious ambition in these young men. Money they have had aplenty. It’s the respect which moves them. They have areas to improve, like all of us. Some would’ve issues with off-stump; others with playing across the line; some with the pull shot. Bowlers always want quality, discipline, fitness, and new tricks to unleash. These boys believe they can improve — and they will. These are strong shoulders India could rely on.

Further, there is clarity in captaincy, and that is vital. Kohli has started his reign in Tests. ‘Dhoni the Fox’ heads the ODI pack. One is not that new; the other is not that old. Ideas can be bounced around; workload shared; checklists compared. Both share respect. None of them would look over their shoulder; none eyes other’s fruits. There are no contrary commands’, no overlapping. 

The top six in the batting lineup is the same in both formats, Tests and ODIs/T20s. This is fluidity, stability — like a Swiss watch with hundreds of interconnected cogs and flywheels, working to perfection. 

Father Time is never out of step; a good few years of harmony ahead. These batsmen are sensible heads. They don’t grumble when moved up and down the order. No theatrics; each standing for the other. 

I was witness to all that for a good length of time. It fills me up with hope. It’s a nice stew in the pot to take care of your appetite. 


(Ravi Shastri was Indian team director till the World Cup)