Former India fast bowler Ajit Agarkar has called for the selectors to scrutinise MS Dhoni's role in the Indian team, and not merely as captain. Agarkar felt the selectors should look at Virat Kohli's performance as the Test captain by comparison, and make a call on Dhoni's role in the limited-overs format after the ongoing South Africa series.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo ahead of India's ODI series against South Africa, Agarkar said "the selectors need to have a closer look at what MS Dhoni is doing, not just as captain, but as a player as well".
Agarkar was especially concerned by Dhoni's declining individual form. "He has been a great player for India, but you don't want him to become a liability for the team. And he needs to perform a lot better than he has [been]. Just because he has done it over the years, doesn't mean it's okay for him to fail."
Agarkar was also highly critical of Dhoni's decision to bat at No.4 in the one-day format, insisting that such a move would be "unfair" on somebody like Ajinkya Rahane and "would not work for the team."
'I'm not convinced he should bat at four," Agarkar said. "Just after a World Cup, you're now trying to develop your team for the next World Cup. Four years is a long time, but for Dhoni, towards the end of his career, to put himself up, I'm not sure about it. You can understand if there are batsmen who can't bat 3 and 4. But there is Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of your best players in Test cricket and I don't think he can bat lower than four in ODIs yet, unless he changes his game over his career.
"Dhoni seems to have lost that ability of going out there and smashing it from ball one. He obviously takes his time. But he batted up the order in Bangladesh, and India still lost the series. All his career when people wanted him to bat up because he is so good and has that destructive ability, he has always maintained that he wants and needs to bat at No.6, where he can handle the pressure.
"It's a hard job batting at 5, 6 and 7. I've seen Yuvraj and MS himself do it for so long, but that doesn't mean that it changes at this stage in his career. You've got to have guys who are good at certain numbers. And at the moment MS by promoting himself, is getting a Rahane or anyone else who bats there, into trouble. I would still have Raina and Dhoni at 5 and 6, so contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don't think Dhoni should be batting at four at this stage in his career."
Agarkar believed the selectors might have some big decisions to take at the end of the ODI series against South Africa, on the future of the Indian team in ODIs and T20Is.
"Looking at the results, India have generally been good in ODIs, but you've lost the World Cup semi-final, then you've lost in Bangladesh where Dhoni was captain twice, and you've now lost a T20 series. Yes, the T20s can go either way very quickly so you don't want to judge someone, but for Dhoni this is a big series," he said.
"The selectors maybe need to look at where the Indian team is heading because Virat Kohli has done well as captain in Test cricket so maybe the selectors need to make that call after this series.'