MS (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni has one of the most unique skill sets Indian cricket has ever produced.
As a wicketkeeper he holds the record for the most ODI dismissals in an innings, the most stumpings in ODI internationals, and is the first from his country to take 300 ODI catches.
Considered as one of the best finishers ever, he was the first player to pass 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, and has the most not outs of any batter in ODIs.
Meanwhile the man who captained India to success in the T20I World Cup in 2007, the Cricket World Cup in 2011, and Champions Trophy success in 12-13, has had a glittering IPL career as well. He has played for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) since the inception of the league in 2008 – except for the two years when they were banned, skippering them to four title wins.
And when Ravindra Jadeja, his successor at CSK, found the job too much midway through the last season, the franchise turned back to Dhoni as captain, which coincided with an upturn in form.
All good things must come to an end though, Dhoni is now 40, and his retirement will come sooner rather than later.
Who might take his place?
Pant would appear to be the heir apparent and has now established himself as India’s first choice wicketkeeper in all formats of the game. It was not always the case, however, and, there were doubts about his glove work when he first appeared on the international scene.
However, he has worked extensively on that aspect of his game, and improved his technique behind the stumps. He has also acquired a reputation as an explosive batter, with four Test centuries and 9 fifties to his name already. He does have a tendency to throw his wicket away sometimes, and can be too aggressive in his shot selection sometimes. However, he is still only 24 years old and will gain maturity as he gets older.
As for captaincy, he was initially appointed vice-captain for the T20I series against South Africa, but was bumped up to lead the side when KL Rahul got injured. He also led the Delhi Capitals in the IPL this season, and continues to gain experience in the role.
At one stage Saha looked like he was the man to succeed Dhoni and his wicket-keeping skills were certainly on par with him. However, his career has been derailed by a series of injuries. They include a fracture on his hand whilst batting against South Africa in a Test match, and then he required surgery after picking up a similar knock in a match against Bangladesh.
As a result his international career has been limited to just 40 Tests – having made his debut back in 2010 – and 9 ODIs and, at the age of 37, his chances of being picked again by the India selectors would appear slim.
However, he continues to enjoy success domestically. He was the first cricketer to score an IPL century, and, in 2011, he won the tournament with CSK, playing in the same side as Dhoni. More recently, having been bought by the Gujarat Titans, he has featured in the team that won the IPL in their inaugural season.
Another player once tipped to have a glittering international career, Samson won the Best Young Player Award in his debut season for the Rajasthan Royals in 2013 season, but he has arguably failed to maximise his potential.
And the fact that he has only played one ODI and 13 T20Is since making his debut back in 2015 indicates that the Indian selectors do not appear to trust him.
At 27 years old he can no longer be considered young – Pant is three years his junior – and he lacks the explosive batting power of the latter. However, he did captain the Rajasthan Royalsto the final of the IPL this season, and that should not be downplayed.
Comparing any player to a legend like Dhoni is unfortunate because it can lead to unrealistic expectations and place too great a burden on those tipped to succeed them.
However, if any player is currently in the pole position to assume his multi-role as wicket-keeper, batter, and ultimately captain, it is Rishabh Pant.
The ship would appear to have sailed for Saha, whilst with Samson there is a lack of trust.
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