As India’s limited overs skipper MS Dhoni touched down on Pune, fans thronged the airport creating a mad rush. His arrival here was expected to generate such interest as Pune will be his home for the next two seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
As captain of the Rising Pune Supergiants, Dhoni will have to pay regular visits to the city soon after the World T20 ends in early April.
But before that, Dhoni has a task on hand. On Tuesday, when India play Sri Lanka in the first of the three Twenty20 Internationals, the onus will be on the skipper to iron out flaws ahead of the Asia Cup and World T20.
Accompanied by team director Ravi Shastri, Dhoni spent a considerable time observing the pitch at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.
Incidentally, this series could be Shastri’s last bilateral series in-charge of the Indian side as his contract ends with the World T20.
It is also likely to be the last series where Shastri and Dhoni will strategise together in the absence of Virat Kohli, who has been at the centre of most of the team director’s plans ever since he became Test captain.
India have enjoyed many positive results under the stewardship of Shastri. It was during his tenure at the helm that Dhoni had taken the decision to retire from Test cricket and the decision seems to have worked in India’s favour.
However, India could feel Kohli’s absence in this series as he continues to be the mainstay of Indian batting.
Although Sri Lanka arrive in India with a depleted side, bereft of big players, India cannot afford to be complacent so close to the World T20.
With the squad for the big event already picked, this series will be a good platform to test the players.
Ajinkya Rahane has been picked for the biennial tournament but couldn’t play in any of the games in the T20 series in Australia because of injury. New entrant Pawan Negi too will be keen on getting an opportunity before the big tournaments begin.
Speaking ahead of the game, Dhoni said it is important that players give their best or face the threat of being replaced.
“We have a well-balanced side. I don’t think we will like to change the roles that are (already set) for the players,” Dhoni said. “However, it is for the individuals to step up and give their best in the roles given to them,” he added.
This series also provides the last chance for any chopping and changing necessary, but which players Shastri and Dhoni agree upon or not will be intriguing.