200 up for captain MS Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to lead India in what turned out to be his 200th appearance as captain in ODIs.

MS Dhoni is captaining India after a gap of two years.   -  TWITTER

As the India players warmed up for half an hour before toss on Tuesday, all of them – barring one – wore India's training jerseys and shorts.

Minutes later, when he dominated the team talk during the customary pre-match huddle, it was another indication.

The biggest giveaway came five minutes before toss when a member of the support staff handed him the team sheet with match referee Any Pycroft waiting outside the boundary line for both the captains to walk into the middle for the toss.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to lead India in what turned out to be his 200th appearance as captain in ODIs.

Considering that he is India's longest serving ODI captain, it would be odd to refer to him as the stand-in captain.

But the fact was he was actually filling in for captain Rohit Sharma and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan, both of whom preferred to rest against Afghanistan to give the reserves a game with India having already qualified for the final.

As a result, Dhoni, who had relinquished white-ball captaincy ahead of England's tour to India early in 2017, returned to lead India after a prolonged gap of 696 days.

Even while passing on the blues' baton to Virat Kohli, while addressing what turned out to be his last interaction with the media as a member of the Indian team, Dhoni had stressed that a wicket-keeper is “always the vice-captain” since he sets the fields most of the times.

When he was back in the saddle, Dhoni – who has been instrumental on the field irrespective of the captain – had to be even more proactive.

Add to that the fact that India's team on Tuesday consisted of fringe players trying to make a case for India A as recently as last month, and Dhoni had to be constantly in the bowlers' and the fielders' ears.

It reflected moments after the game began as five balls into the opening over, left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed started walking towards the captain instead of turning back after his follow-up.

Dhoni jogged up to him and had a word with the bowler. With Mohammad Shahzad tonking the India bowlers literally at will, Dhoni also ran up to Kedar Jadhav early on in the part-timer's spell, perhaps to discuss variation of trajectory.

The veteran cricketer continued to egg his bowlers till the very end of the innings. And even as the India squad walked back to the change room after Khaleel bowled the last over, Dhoni was involved in an animated discussion with the bowler.

Once a captain, always a captain, ain't it!

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