Former India opener Gautam Gambhir recently said ex-captain Sourav Ganguly gave more quality and match winning players to his successor MS Dhoni than the latter left for Virat Kohli. Kohli, as we all know, took the mantle of captaincy from MS Dhoni.
When Ganguly stepped down from the top job, he left the team with bowling riches in Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar and Harbhajan Singh. With Yuvraj and Kaif, who flourished under Dada’s stewardship, the Indian team had also acquired a middle order steel. And not to mention the dashing Virender Sehwag upfront.
Not known to mince words, Gambhir said with the exception of Kohli, Rohit Sharma and pacer Jasprit Bumrah, India did not see to many match-winners burst onto the scene under Dhoni.
Apart from these three, there aren’t too many “world-beaters” who evolved under Dhoni, the southpaw said. “When MS Dhoni finished (his captaincy tenure), he didn’t give enough quality players to Virat Kohli, apart from Virat himself and Rohit Sharma, or Jasprit Bumrah now. There are not too many world beaters or people who can win you tournaments.”
“But look at what Sourav Ganguly gave to Indian cricket: Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Series in two World Cups (though he was only picked for the award in the 2011 World Cup), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag – these kinds of world-beaters,” Gambhir said.
However, the question is, can Ganbhir’s words be taken at face value? Did MSD not give enough quality players to Kohli around whom he could build a winning team?
Dhoni’s focus on scouting talent
With all due respect to Gambhir’s exploits for Team India, one would have to disagree with him in this regard. Dhoni’s focus, through the length of his captaincy tenure, had been on scouting talent and giving them opportunities to showcase their skills in India colours.
Ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin flourished under Dhoni’s captaincy and so did Ravindra Jadeja. On the batting front, Suresh Raina entrenched himself in the middle order and won many games for the country, especially in the shorter formats.
It was on his watch that Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan emerged as an explosive opening pair in limited overs cricket. Murli Vijay, too, established himself as a dependable Test batsman during Dhoni’s captaincy stint in the longer format.
So, how is it that Gambhir failed to acknowledge the success that these players found under Dhoni? While it is fair to say that Dada produced more match-winners during his captaincy days, it would be fallacious to say that he left no talent pool for Kohli.
Earlier, speaking at a cricket show, Gambhir had said that it was easy for MS Dhoni to lead India to the title in the 2011 World Cup because of the sheer wealth of talent he had in the team.
“Captaining the 2011 World Cup team was very easy for Dhoni because we had players like Sachin, Sehwag, myself, Yuvraj, Yusuf and Virat. So, he had got the best team, while Ganguly had to work very hard for it. As a result, Dhoni won so many trophies,”Gauti said.
Partly true, yes, but why would one even consider investing in raw talent when you have such established gun players in your line-up?
The likes of Sehwag, Yuvraj and Harbhajan still had their best years in cricket ahead of them when Ganguly stepped down and one wouldn’t even think of bringing in new players as long as the stars were around.
And wisdom says that one should go into a tournament as big as the World Cup with a settled, well-oiled line-up. Hence, it wasn’t Dhoni’s fault that he had a wealth of talent under him in 2011.
While all credit should go to Ganguly for leaving a settled team for Dhoni, let’s not run down the latter’s contributions in enriching Indian cricket.