R Sridhar About Mahi and Kohli: MS Dhoni has always been deemed as one of the most perfect finishers in the history of the sport and when you are a finisher, one of the most intrinsic arts that you are ought to follow involves that of timing. The timing to place your innings perfectly, knowing the right time to switch gears, knowing the time to put on the reins or even at times, knowing when to leave your opposition in waste.
Dhoni’s impeccable sense of timing also made him one of the finest captains in the shorter format of the game. However, India suffered somewhat of a dry phase outside the sub-continent in Tests and MS could do very little to try and change the narrative in India’s favour. However, by the time he decided to retire from the red-ball format, he already knew that Indian cricket was in safe hands for he had his eyes set on another budding youngster, who till then had already smoked various bowling icons of the world to the ropes with extreme prejudice.
Former Indian fielding coach, R Sridhar who was a part of the Indian team back then narrated an unheard tale of how MS had an intriguing conversation with Virat Kohli and laid down the roadmap ahead of him, also letting him know that how he stands as the perfect man for the job.
Writing in his autobiography, ‘Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian cricket team’, Sridhar penned, “Virat was unequivocal in what India’s approach would be the next morning no matter what target they set us to chase. We were already looking at a required rate of 4 an over in case Australia declared overnight, which day did. But Virat was unshakable in his belief that there was no question of battening down the hatches and looking for a draw.”
He further added, “Virat later told me that on the bus ride back to the hotel, MS Dhoni slid into the seat next to him. ‘Look, Virat, you can chase down this total. You are that kind of a player and we all know that but as captain, you will also have to think about what the others. Are the batters capable of playing that positively and attempting to chase down 360 on the final day of a Test match? While making decisions, you will have to consider the strength of the entire team’”.
Sridhar continued, “Virat said he saw some merit in what MS had said but he was clear in his mind that positivity was the way forward. Virat’s reply to MS was pithy, ‘Only if we try, we can know na? Whether we can do it or not. We have not chased 360 on the last day of a Test match ever before because we haven’t yet tried to do that. Let us try and give it a shot. Unless we try how will know how good we are?’” Narrating the tale of the match, Sridhar concluded, “As anticipated, Australia declared overnight and our target was 364. For large parts of the chase with Virat and Murali Vijay at the forefront we were well on course and we could see that Australia were rattled. We had reached 242 for 2 at one stage, within sight of the finishing tape when Nathan Lyon got into the act. Despite Virat’s second hundred of the test we went down by 46 runs but to me, that match was the beginning of where the Indian test team is today. That was the moment we knew as a team that this is how we are going to play test cricket.”