India skipper Virat Kohli his silence on MS Dhoni’s retirement and told Mahendra Singh Dhoni that “you will always be my captain” as he hailed the influence of the cricketing great, who has called time on his international career.
Kohli, who made his India debut under Dhoni’s leadership in 2008, heaped praise on the talismanic captain who led his country to Twenty20 and 50-over World Cup triumphs.
“Words fall short a lot of times in life and I think this is one of those moments,” Kohli said in an emotional video message on the Board of Control for Cricket in India website.
“All I can say is that you will always be that guy who sat in the last seat of the bus. Not saying much but your presence, your aura saying a lot.”
Dhoni, a flamboyant wicketkeeper-batsman, quit Tests in 2014 and stepped aside as limited-overs captain three years later, paving the way for Kohli to lead the team across all formats. But Kohli has frequently called on his mentor for guidance from his position behind the stumps.
“We have shared a great camaraderie, friendship, understanding and that has happened because we have always played for the same goals, which was to make the team win,” said Kohli.
“It’s been a pleasure playing alongside you and playing under you initially in my career. You showed belief in me, which I would always be grateful for.
“I have said it before, I will say it again, you will always be my captain.”
India coach Ravi Shastri said: “As a leader and captain he can sit on Mount Everest with those kind of achievements.
“Multiple world cups, Champions Trophy, number one Test team in the world, IPL titles, Champions League. You name it and he has got it.”
Former India coach Gary Kirsten, who was in charge when Dhoni’s team won the 2011 World Cup, praised the enigmatic leader.
“A privilege to work with one of the best leaders I have come across. Thanks MS for many fond memories with the Indian Cricket Team. @msdhoni,” the former South Africa batsman, who coached India between 2008-2011, wrote on Twitter.
The captain and coach shared mutual respect, with Dhoni once saying he was “the best thing to happen to Indian cricket” while Kirsten quipped: “I would go to war with Dhoni by my side.”
Dhoni-led India to the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, the 50-over event and the Champions Trophy in 2013.
Dhoni will continue to lead his Indian Premier League side Chennai Super Kings, which has won three titles under him, next month in the United Arab Emirates.
Dhoni has not played for India since their World Cup semi-final loss against New Zealand in England last year — his 350th one-day international.
He holds the record for most international matches as captain, 332, and his 195 international stumpings is also the most by any wicket-keeper.