Dhoni - erstwhile captain, perennial guide

Be it Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma, an Indian captain regularly lets Dhoni handle the execution of strategies, field placements and other essential changes in limited-overs cricket.

India relied on M. S. Dhoni’s cricketing acumen in Cuttack on Wednesday to gain its biggest Twenty20 win.   -  K. R. Deepak

No one can be more eligible than M. S. Dhoni if the Indian team appoints a 'playing coach,' which may be a more active variant of a non-playing captain in Davis Cup in tennis.

Even without such a tag, Dhoni has been playing such a role ever since he relinquished captaincy in one-day and T20 cricket.

In the last phase of his illustrious career, Dhoni is excelling with his individual performance and his role of a guide to youngsters.

Captains seeking advice from experienced players on the field is not uncommon. But skippers nearly handing over the charge on the field to a seasoned pro is rare. Be it Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma, an Indian captain regularly lets Dhoni handle the execution of strategies, field placements and other essential changes in limited-overs cricket.

Central role

The first of the three-match T20I series at the Barabati Stadium here on Wednesday night was another instance of India's reliance on Dhoni and his immense cricketing acumen, which helped the team record the biggest victory, by 93 runs, in the format.

Right from the time the Indians entered the ground for warm-up exercises, Dhoni had a role to play. He was the first man to whom head coach Ravi Shastri went up and discussed some strategies. While batting, Dhoni came in at the perfect time and slot, No. 4, and contributed a 22-ball 39 while mentoring Manish Pandey and forging with him an important unbeaten 68-run partnership. It made the target harder – 181 on a track having spongy bounce – for the Sri Lankan batsmen.

Dhoni's quick grasp of the pitch and conditions is unmatched.

In control

A member of the Jharkhand coaching staff shared an incident to highlight this. On a difficult Eden Garden pitch in a Vijay Hazare Trophy one-dayer earlier this year, Jharkhand managed 125 and its coaches thought it would be a tight contest. However, Dhoni felt the opposition innings should get wrapped up for 80.

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Indeed, Saurashtra was bundled out for just 83!

So, when India went out to defend its aggregate on a dew-bathed Barabati turf, Dhoni was in cruise control mode.

Dhoni gave the bowlers, especially spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the confidence and field to bowl to as Rohit took a back seat. His four dismissals behind the stumps might have earned him the record of owning the most number of dismissals (74), surpassing AB de Villiers, in T20 cricket, but personal milestones do not excite Dhoni.

This probably is the reason which makes Dhoni one of the most valuable assets in the side and prompts Shastri to consider the 36-year-old for India's campaign in the 2019 World Cup.