His stellar reign as India’s national skipper is over but Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have captain written against his name one last time when the talismanic wicketkeeper-batsman leads out India ‘A’ against England in the first practice match here on Tuesday.
Dhoni took the cricketing world by surprise when he announced his decision to step down from leadership last week, giving Virat Kohli the reins of captaincy in all three formats of the game.
However, he would be leading India A in the first of two warm-up games scheduled for the tourists at the Brabourne Stadium. But the match itself is expected to be watched by just a handful of spectators as heavy police presence is expected to keep away the fans.
The game is being held under the cloud of the Supreme Court’s sacking of the top BCCI President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke, making most of the senior functionaries of the body ineligible to cling to their posts. While there have been reports of the disgruntled and ousted Board officials trying to persuade some BCCI-affiliated units from hosting games of the England tour, CCI has decided to go ahead and conduct both the warm-up games in right earnest. As such there is no immediate threat to on Tuesday’s first day/night warm-up game as well as the second game featuring another India A squad to be led by Ajinkya Rahane on January 12 which is to be held as a day game. The focus on the first game will be not only on Dhoni but also on recalled limited over specialists – Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra – who were both members of the triumphant squad led by the Ranchi superstar that regained the 50-over World Cup in 2011.
This is the first and last competitive game all these three ageing stalwarts will have before the six-match, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s, limited-overs series between India and England commencing on January 15 at Pune.
While Dhoni and Yuvraj have been included for both the ODI and T20 International series, Nehra has found himself back in only the T20 squad.
All three players have had a lengthy break from cricket going into the warm-up match against the Eoin Morgan-led England squad.
The injury-prone 37-year-old Nehra has not played during the entire domestic season so far for Delhi, and thus will be keen to get quickly into the groove and also assess his match fitness.
The 35-year-old Yuvraj last played for India in the World T20 in March 2016 and has not played ODIs since December 2013.