Dasgupta: 'There's no replacement for Dhoni at the moment'

In that selection committee meeting in 2004, a majority of the selectors wanted Deep Dasgupta, but chairman Kiran More brought in a rookie M.S. Dhoni in the side, the rest they say is history.

Deep Dasgupta: "Dhoni has changed the course of Indian cricket. He is a real game-changer."   -  Special Arrangement

Even before the conversation gets underway, Deep Dasgupta makes it clear that it is not easy to assess Dhoni’s impact and legacy by mere figures. The former India wicketkeeper-batsman goes a step further, and says that it is quite impossible for India to head to 2019 World Cup without ‘MSD’.

As the ‘Mahi’ of Indian cricket gears up for his 300th ODI appearance on Thursday, it certainly opens a floodgate of memories for Dasgupta. After all, in that BCCI selection committee meeting in 2004, three of the five wise men of Indian cricket had actually batted for Dasgupta to return to the India fold.

But in the end, Dhoni-a rookie from Jharkhand then-was picked over Dasgupta by the Kiran More-led committee. The selection did raise a few eyebrows with Dhoni failing to make an impact in his debut tour in Bangladesh.

In the next thirteen years, a fairy tale has been written.

From being another name in the horizon, the 36-year-old has gone on to become India’s World Cup-winning captain, and has attained the status of a great ‘finisher’. The chief selector M.S.K. Prasad may have raised questions over his future, but Dhoni continues to give glimpses of his old wizardry, a match-winning knock against Sri Lanka being a case in point.

“That’s the reality. There is no replacement for Dhoni at the moment. I don’t think Rishabh Pant is ready for the big level as yet. And I am not assessing Dhoni by what he has done before. It is all about his present form,” Dasgupta tells Sportstar.

While he agrees that Dhoni has never been an epitome of technique, Dasgupta believes that the erstwhile India skipper has better approach and understanding of the game than many of his other contemporaries. “That makes him special,” he says.

After so many years as he looks back, Dasgupta admits that there’s no regret of ‘losing out’ to Dhoni. “Whatever has happened has happened. Whether I could have made a difference or not is altogether a different question,” he says, adding: “Instead of dwelling over the past, let’s celebrate what he has given to us. He has done fabulously. I have no regrets.

A few years back, the then chairman of selectors, More, had gone on record claiming the majority wanted Dasgupta be brought in as the ‘keeper-batsman, but they decided to go ahead with the newcomer from Ranchi.

“Let’s face it. Dhoni has changed the course of Indian cricket. He is a real game-changer. A lot of people won’t realise it, but for us, who know about it, this is a big thing,” he says.

After a little pause, the former cricketer goes on. “MSD’s impact is a lot. He has made unconventional things into conventional. That’s a huge achievement for a cricketer,” Dasgupta, who played eight Tests and five ODIs for India, points out.

At that point of time, there were speculations that Dasgupta fell a victim to regional bias, but years later, all that claims have had no substantial evidence. Even Dasgupta doesn’t subscribe to the rumours. “MSD is still the best we have. Instead of thinking what is what, it is better to celebrate the milestone moment,” the former Bengal Ranji Trophy captain adds.

Perhaps, only a cricketer knows the significance of reaching the milestone. 

Not just records, they do create memories.