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India v New Zealand, 1st ODI, Dharamsala: Eye on future as ODIs begin

DHARAMSHALA: As Virat Kohli walked towards the practice arena at the HPCA stadium, he was surrounded by 10 or 20 young fans who plied him with requests for autographs and selfies. The Indian Test captain duly obliged before starting his knockdowns. When limited-overs side skipper MS Dhoni+ arrived, however, the fans were nowhere to be seen, in perhaps an early indicator that change is imminent when it comes to the power centre in India’s white-ball cricket. Kohli’s stature within Indian cricket has been rising by the day, especially after his exploits as a leader in the Test arena, in which India are currently No.1. In contrast, Dhoni’s powers appear to be on the wane, although his standing in Indian cricket has never been in question. But the 2011 World Cup-winning captain knows the baton has to be passed sooner than later. “On the field, I have started using his (Kohli’s) inputs much more. If you witness a match, you will see I have more interactions with him. I try to pick his brains,” Dhoni said on the eve of the first ODI between India and New Zealand here. Dhoni knows the next in line is more than ready to assume the mantle. Even at Saturday’s nets session, Dhoni was seen giving knockdowns to Kohli, and vice-versa. Dhoni and Kohli also engaged in moments of banter. Apart from the team’s success in Tests, the fact that Dhoni doesn’t play Tests anymore and comes into the Indian set-up once in two-three months has increased the clamour for Kohli’s elevation to the captaincy in all formats of the game. The ODI series against New Zealand will be an acid Test for Dhoni. A series loss might give the selectors a strong reason to push Kohli as the leader of all three formats. “I remember a few years back we were talking about split captaincy. Now we are talking about why we have split captaincy,” Dhoni said, when asked whether split captaincy is good for Indian cricket.

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