Gary Kirsten: 'Replace Dhoni at your own risk'

"You replace M. S. Dhoni at your peril, because the one experience I have had is that all great leaders have great performances till the end of their careers," said Gary Kirsten.


Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gary Kirsten were instrumental in forging India to its second World Cup triumph in 2011.   -  Getty Images

It would be a mistake to replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India's ODI skipper said Gary Kirsten, who coached the team when it won the World Cup in 2011.

In a media interaction after overseeing a cricket camp organised by Saldhana International Academy at the Mumbai Police Gymkhana, he was asked if it was time to hand over the captaincy to Virat Kohli.

"You are not going to get an answer out of me," replied he. "You replace M. S. Dhoni at your peril, because the one experience I have had is that all great leaders have great performances till the end of their careers."

He felt India might miss a match-winning performance from Dhoni in the 2019 World Cup if it lets him go.

"So, if you (are) willing to let M. S. Dhoni go when there might potentially be a great World Cup performance left in him if he goes to the (2019) World Cup, which I am not sure if he is (taking part) or not, you take the risk of doing that," said the South African.

"I think that is the question I get asked the most everytime I come to India. My answer hasn’t changed in three years. That he (Dhoni) is definitely the best leader I have ever worked with. And his record for Indian cricket over the last nine-ten years speaks for itself."

"There is no debating in my opinion that he is up there with India’s greatest captains and certainly has produced the trophies for India in his time."

According to former South Africa batsman, Dhoni’s record in limited overs cricket spoke for itself.

"You just have to look at his ODI batting record as well. As a finisher, it’s unsurpassed in the world. So, if anyone is doubting his ability, I think they would be making a great mistake.

“He is a great player and all great players would continue to produce fantastic performances through their career. It’s exciting to see him doing well and having success with the Indian team. I enjoyed working with him and it was a great experience for me."

Kirsten felt it should be left to the Ranchi star to decide on his future.

"There comes a time in every player when he is got to consider for himself whether he should be in the team or it’s time to move. We will leave the decision up to him," he said.

To a query whether Dhoni should consistently bat higher up the order as he did in the recently concluded ODI series against New Zealand when he batted at no.4, Kirsten said he was capable of batting in a lot many positions.

“That discussion is going on for eight years. He does (have) an ODI batting average of over 50. He can bat in lot of different positions.

"When I was with the Indian team, I encouraged rotational batting order, where we batted according to the situation rather than this is your batting position today. M. S. was brilliant at that, he didn’t mind where he batted."

"I always liked him to come in when we needed 100 runs to win because there was no one better (than him) in the world (who) could have won a game from that position, speaking from my experience. But he often liked to get up little bit earlier, so that he can have more time at the wicket and help himself to a hundred. M S Dhoni could pretty much bat anywhere in the batting order,” Kirsten explained further.

On Anil Kumble’s appointment as India’a head coach, Kirsten said, "One needs to really understand that coaching space and what value you can add to a group of people. Every environment can be different. Anil is a great human being and has got a fantastic value system.

"I worked little bit with him in the Indian team. He has been a great player with tremendous results. He will get natural respect from the players. It is also nice to have an Indian as the India coach."

“He has had immediate success and that is not surprising. No doubt he has all the credentials necessary for taking the team forward with Virat Kohli as the leader of the Test team and M. S. in white ball (ODI) formats.”

Kirsten gave thumbs up to Board of Control for Cricket in India agreeing to use the Decision Review System (DRS) for the upcoming Test series against England after having consistently opposed it in the past.

"If they (BCCI) are going to try it, it's brilliant. It is a great technology, and it’s got better and better. It will be great for every Test playing country to use the technology."

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