MS Dhoni caused a million heartbreaks and more when he announced that he would no longer be captaining the Indian ODI and T20 sides on the 4th of January in typical fashion. Only a couple of years ago, he had retired from Test cricket in a similar manner, when it was completely unexpected.
The good news for Dhoni fans was the fact that he did speak of his desire to continue as a member of the squad. With that being said, many people do not see Dhoni playing beyond the 2019 World Cup, while there is growing belief that he might not last beyond the 2017 Champions Trophy.
The need to groom a wicket-keeper to ensure a smooth transition is one of the top priorities for the team management now with Dhoni having served the side so well for over a decade.
Here, we look at 5 possible replacements for MS Dhoni –
19-year-old Rishabh Pant has had a fabulous past 18-months that have seen his stocks rise exponentially. He is widely believed to be the heir apparent to MS Dhoni, with his aggressive style of batting giving him a boost.
He made his mark in the U-19 World Cup when he slammed an 18-ball half-century against Nepal. This performance, followed by a century later on, led the Delhi Daredevils to splash the cash on the youngster, as he was picked up for 1.9 crores.
It was the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season where he really established himself however. He scored the fastest century in Ranji Trophy history, scored a magnificent triple century and ended with 972 runs at a strike-rate of over 100.
He earned his maiden Indian team call-up recently, for the T20Is against England in January 2017.
If you thought if doesn’t get any more impressive than Rishabh Pant, 18-year-old Ishan Kishan from Jharkhand is an equally special phenomenon. He hails from the same state as MS Dhoni and thus seems a natural successor.
He belongs to the same category of modern day aggressive batsmen such as Pant and had a fabulous 2016-2017 Ranji season as well, ending with 799 runs in a special season for the Jharkhand side, as they finished runners-up.
Kishan is one who has handled leadership through his early days as well, and it was him who captained India at the U-19 World Cup in 2016, where they lost to the Windies in the final.
22-year-old Sanju Samson has been in the spotlight for so long that it almost makes it hard to believe that he is still so young. He is one who shot to prominence early in his career thanks to his exploits in the IPL.
He boasts of more experience than Pant and Kishan, and has amassed nearly 2000 runs in 37 first-class matches. He has also made his debut for the Indian cricket team, a solitary T20I against Zimbabwe in 2015.
Sanju Samson’s best moments have come in the IPL, where he has been a star for the past couple of seasons, especially at the Rajasthan Royals, where he flourished under the mentorship of Rahul Dravid.
31-year-old Parthiv Patel is enjoying a kind of renaissance that Indian cricket has hardly ever seen in the past. Having been shunted out to the cold after making a breakthrough early in the career, he came into his own in 2016.
Having been given a chance in the Indian Test side, he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, displaying unbelievable commitment to put his name in contention for a long term spot in the side.
His career would get better as he scored a remarkable century in the Ranji Trophy final to guide his side, Gujarat, to its maiden trophy. Over the years, he has adapted his game to become a limited-overs specialist and has quite a few years left in his tank to serve Indian cricket well.
Things really get tricky when you start to think of the possibilities with 24-year-old Karnataka batsman KL Rahul. While it may be a stretch to say he has conquered all three formats already, he has done something that only two other Indians ever have, score a century in all three formats.
He can walk into India’s Test side as a natural batsman. However, in the ODIs and T20Is, with the ample amount of options to the management, there might be a compromise made, where he is made to don the gloves as well.
This was an experiment that Indian cricket has tried in the past as well, with Rahul Dravid, and it might just be the way to go with the newer Rahul as well. His credentials as a wicket-keeper still have to be justified, but if he can work on his work behind the stumps, it will be a massive boost to the team as they can experiment with a number of combinations.