MS Dhoni in consideration to be deal-breaker in selecting Rahul Dravid's replacement as India's head coach | Crickit

MS Dhoni in consideration to be deal-breaker in selecting Rahul Dravid's replacement as India's head coach

May 21, 2024 01:35 PM IST

India head coach: Discussions with the others are ongoing, but BCCI is not ready to give up on Stephen Fleming yet. MS Dhoni is likely to be their last gamble.

MS Dhoni's input can become a crucial factor in selecting the next head coach of Team India. With the IPL out of the way for Dhoni - Chennai Super Kings were knocked out of the tournament after losing their last league match to Royal Challengers Bengaluru - the BCCI is considering seeking the legendary cricketer's help to become a deal breaker between the board and CSK head coach Stephen Fleming.

MS Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings with head coach Stephen Fleming.(Sportzpics for BCCI)
MS Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings with head coach Stephen Fleming.(Sportzpics for BCCI)

Hindustan Times has learnt that Fleming, a decorated cricketer during his playing days, who also captained New Zealand in 303 matches and is the longest-serving coach in the IPL, was the board's first choice to replace Rahul Dravid as India's head coach after the T20 World Cup. But the former Kiwi opener has expressed his reluctance to commit till 2027.

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The former New Zealand skipper, who has been at the helm of CSK since 2009, is quite happy with his short stints in different teams owned by the franchise in various T20 leagues across the globe. Besides being the head coach of the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, Fleming is in charge of the Texas Super Kings in Major League Cricket (USA) and Joburg Super Kings in SA20 (South Africa). He is also the head coach of the Southern Brave in The Hundred.

Despite being associated with four different franchises in four different leagues, Fleming gets considerable time to be with his family, mainly due to the short duration of the tournaments. If he accepts BCCI's offer, he will have to be on the road for almost the entire year, barring the two months in the IPL.

According to sources, Fleming made this clear in his initial discussions with the BCCI during the early stages of the IPL. BCCI then started to look for other options and approaches were made to Justin Langer, Gautam Gambhir and Mahela Jayawardene.

While the discussion with them is ongoing, the board is not ready to give up on Fleming yet. Dhoni is likely to be their last throw of the dice.

"Fleming hasn't said no. He has expressed his concerns about the tenure of the contract, which is nothing unusual. Even Rahul Dravid wasn't keen in the beginning. He was persuaded. It shouldn't be a surprise if the same thing happens with Fleming. And who better than MS Dhoni to do the job?" a BCCI source told Hindustan Times.

Dhoni and Fleming have been close since IPL's inception. In his only season as a player in the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008, Dhoni was Fleming's leader at CSK. The two have developed a strong bond since then and are known to be close off the field. Dhoni and Fleming have never been separated in the IPL. The Indian legend and the Kiwi great were part of the Rising Pune Supergiant team when CSK was suspended for two years.

The decision-makers in the BCCI believe that if anyone can convince Fleming to take up the challenge, it is Dhoni. "Opening channels with Dhoni during the IPL was not the right thing to do, but now it may be worth a shot," the source added.

Why Stephen Fleming?

It is pretty much given that the Indian team would go through a transition after the T20 World Cup in the Americas this year. It is believed to be captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli's last shot at laying their hands on a World Cup. The 50-overs World Cup is three years away. By that time, Rohit will be 40 and Kohli nudging 39. Seeing them compete in the mega event in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia is a long shot. The two stalwarts are likely to focus more on Test cricket in the coming years

BCCI wants the head coach to lead the transition period and Fleming is perfect for the job. Apart from being a master tactician, Fleming is known for his excellent man-management skills. How he has gelled with Dhoni and handled the overseas stars while being equally comfortable with the budding cricketers doesn't need much elaboration.

The Dhoni-Fleming combination has given five titles to CSK - the most by any captain-coach combo in the IPL. The 51-year-old was pivotal in the leadership transition from Dhoni to Ruturaj Gaikwad ahead of this year's IPL.

With something similar likely to happen in Indian cricket in the next year or so, Fleming's calm head and outstanding managerial skills can come in handy.

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