At the face of it, there is apparently no danger to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy since the team is still winning matches. But if one digs deeper, batting sensation Virat Kohli has slowly and surely been the man everyone is looking forward to as the leader, across all formats for India.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be eager to regain his golden touch even as Virat Kohli eyes another smashing knock at his home ground when favourites India lock horns against an hapless New Zealand in the second One-Day International, in Delhi, on Thursday.
It may be just another ODI in a bilateral series, but there is lot at stake for ODI captain Dhoni, who has been under pressure after Test skipper Virat Kohli led India to the number one ranking following a 3-0 whitewash against the Kiwis.
With India up 1-0 in the five-match series, Dhoni and his men would like to continue the momentum at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in order to further consolidate their lead.
It is expected that Dhoni would not tinker much with the playing eleven from the last game with Suresh Raina, who missed the opening match, being ruled out of the second ODI as well after failing to recover from a bout of viral fever.
At the face of it, there is apparently no danger to Dhoni's captaincy since the team is still winning matches. But if one digs deeper, batting sensation Kohli has slowly and surely been the man everyone is looking forward to as the leader, across all formats for India.
A 3-0 whitewash in the Test series with a career-best double hundred, followed by an effortless 85 not out in the first ODI in Dharamsala, Kohli has time and again showed as to how it is done 'leading from the front.'
While Kane Williamson's Black Caps are struggling to stay afloat in the series, India's Captain Cool Dhoni is fighting a different battle altogether.
For Dhoni, it's now about showing the world that he is far from being dubbed as a spent force in limited overs cricket after being rated as one the best finishers in the game not so long ago.
Dhoni, who has lead India to both the ODI and T20 World Cup titles, is still supremely fit and agile behind the stumps and his captaincy acumen cannot be questioned. Testimony to that is Hardik Pandya opening the bowling and Kedar Jadhav filling in the role of a part time off-spinner during the first match, both gambles which paid off handsomely.
But then runs aren't exactly coming from his bat. The big hits aren't being executed with perfection that used to be his hallmark a few years ago.
He was run out for 21 in the last game and although that didn't affect the outcome of the match in any way, but the skipper knows only too well that he has to play a few impact innings in the coming weeks to keep his critics at bay.
No wonder Dhoni's intensity while batting in the nets during an optional session at the Feroz Shah Kotla was there to be seen. For the record, he needs another 61 runs to complete 9000 ODI runs. But there must be a lingering shadow of Virat standing right behind him.
The 3-0 Test series clean sweep has set a benchmark. And Dhoni would like to ideally replicate the feat by winning the ODI series 5-0 against a New Zealand side struggling to get to grips with Indian conditions.
A blip here or a hiccup there would invite more criticism as people are taking it for granted that India will win hands down against the Kiwis.
Comparing Kohli and Dhoni's ODI records:
|ODI Record||Virat Kohli||Mahendra Singh Dhoni|
From a team's perspective, Indians have settled down into a nice rhythm with the last match proving to be a cakewalk.
Umesh Yadav, Pandya, Amit Mishra and Jadhav all chipped in with vital breakthroughs, while Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah didn't get wickets but followed their respective roles to perfection.
Jadhav has now given Dhoni an additional option as the fifth bowler, who can roll his arm over bowling part-time off-breaks in the middle overs.
In the absence of the experienced Raina, Jadhav would like to make his case stronger in case he gets to bat considerable amount of time.
Ajinkya Rahane had a decent start in the first game scoring 34 at nearly run a ball while Rohit Sharma would like to shrug off the disappointment after his failure in Dharamsala.
Manish Pandey, who made just 17 at No. 4 in the first match, will be expected to get some runs with young Punjab batsman Mandeep Singh waiting on the sidelines.
For New Zealand, the series has gone from bad to worse save a few individual performances which is far from being satisfactory. The only saving grace for them has been opener Tom Latham with his consistency.
Skipper Williamson's bad patch has continued for a while and he would like to make amends with a big knock in Delhi.
Spin twins Mitchell Santner and lsh Sodhi have been brought down to earth after the World T20 high as they found how hard it is to bowl on flat sub continental tracks.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, w/k), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Amit Mishra, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jayant Yadav, Mandeep Singh.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain) , Tom Latham, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Luke Ronchi (w/k), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Anton Devcich, Doug Bracewell, Matt Henry, BJ Watling.