The mutual respect and admiration between Virat Kohli, India's current captain, and MS Dhoni, India's former captain, is there for all to see.
From the time Kohli made his debut under Dhoni to the time he took over the Test captaincy in Australia, the duo have formed the core of Indian cricket's batting and then leadership.
So when MS Dhoni announced he was relinquishing limited overs captaincy on Wednesday, giving Kohli the mantle of leadership in all three forms, it comes as no surprise that the latter had nothing but words of high praise for his former captain and mentor.
In a video interview on the BCCI website, Kohli was at his candid best, talking about his reaction and plan for full-time captaincy, the transition from the youngster to leader, and most importantly, his feelings towards Dhoni, who he called 'my captain'. The conversation starts with his elevation and and he goes on to pay tribute to Dhoni's leadership and batting style. In typical Kohli fashion, he is articulate, modest and superfluous in praise.
When asked about his reaction being made full-time captain, Kohli said it was probably the biggest day of his life. "This is probably the biggest day in my life and I am very thankful to MS Dhoni for giving me this opportunity, for thinking I am worthy of taking the responsibility forward and I am very grateful to his contribution in the process," he said.
"It’s a very special moment in my life, it’s a lot of responsibility and something I am really looking forward too. I didn’t realise when the transition happened in my own head starting off as a player who just wanted to play for India and now having the responsibility to be captain in three formats... all the emotions of me playing club games as a child were the first things that came to mind because for every child growing up and playing for the country is the dream," Kohli added.
However, Kohli was glad to still have the services of the wicketkeeper-batsman in the team. “It’s a win-win situation for the new captain coming in. Still having that guy (Dhoni) for advice," he said.
He elaborated further on the impact of Dhoni as captain. "Obviously these are massive shoes to fill. You think of MS Dhoni and the first word that comes to mind is ‘captain’. You don’t relate MS Dhoni in any other way. For me, he is always going be my captain because I started my career under him and he is handing over the leadership to me. He will always be the person who guided me initially, who gave me opportunity, gave me ample time and ample space to grow as a cricketer. (Someone) who saved me from getting dropped from the team many a time. And that’s why there’s a huge amount of mutual respect, because he understands that being given an opportunity I have tried to work as hard on my game and actually improved on the mental side of things so that I can take up the responsibility later. We share a wonderful friendship.”
One of the most striking thing Kohli talks about, however, is Dhoni the batsman. Over the year, Dhoni, the aggressive hitter has matured into Dhoni, the finisher. In the process, he lost some of his aggression and sometimes even his top-order slot. But as anyone who has seen him play over the years (or seen his biopic) will tell you, Dhoni does prefer to come up the order. As a captain, he might not always have had the chance to do so, but now he might just get the opportunity to express himself freely with the bat. And the new captain says as much.
"What I’m really happy about and what I’m most pleased about is the fact (that) he will be able to play free cricket. He will be able to express himself as the aggressive MS Dhoni that we knew, when he came into the team. Somewhere as a player you understand that responsibility can take that away from you. I think it’s time he enjoys his cricket for how much ever time he wants and really expresses himself. He has taken so much burden for the country, and now it’s his time to enjoy it,” Kohli says.
On whether he will change Dhoni's batting position, here's what Kohli had to say. "About the batting bit, if I ask him where he wants to bat, I know what kind of a person he is, he will tell me ‘wherever you want me to bat’. But I would love to see him bat higher up than usually where he has been for the last few years and totally enjoys his cricket. If MS Dhoni enjoys his cricket and plays the way he has in his initial years, the team is in a very solid space. His cricket ability, his understanding of the game, understanding of situations, is priceless. To have this burden off his shoulders, I think he is gonna enjoy the best phase of his career as a batsman and he will be able to enjoy his cricket far more than he has ever done before without the burden of being under the scanner all the time.”
It is clear that under Kohli as full-time captain, the Indian cricket team will start on upbeat, confident note, giving fans the opportunity to look forward to seeing Kohli, the captain and Dhoni, the mentor on field soon.
Watch the full interview here
Updated Date: Jan 10, 2017 12:06 PM