Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
At the start of the 20th over, there was a brief moment on television that unintentionally captured the overwhelming theme of the last few days. The camera zoomed into a close-up of MS Dhoni directing traffic with his big gloves before hurriedly cutting to an image of Virat Kohli doing the same minus the gloves. If you are into metaphors and symbolisms, here was the changing of the guard explained in one shot.
In Pune, Kohli and Dhoni are everywhere. Of the 37,500 people that showed up at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, nearly every other person was wearing a variation of the blue India jersey with one of the three names emblazoned on the back: Virat, Dhoni, Kohli. In the last two days, Dhoni and Kohli have done successive press conferences that resembled keynote sessions of the local mutual admiration society. For instance, Dhoni had no doubt that Kohli would go on to win more games than he did. Kohli, for his part, said he had learnt a lot from Dhoni and would continue to do so.
But, none of this seemed gratuitous. Neither was there any fawning. This was an insightful peek into a relationship that, if mishandled, had the ingredients to become an explosive clash of personalities: incumbent v heir apparent, in-your-face aggro v frigid calm. Dhoni revealed that they have been "very close" right from the beginning, but it wasn't on obvious public display. Not for them the man's-man yaarana (friendship) of Jai and Veeru from the cult Hindi film Sholay, or closer to home, the sappy-saccharine, hair-tousling bromance of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
Theirs is a friendship founded on warmth yet respectful detachment, and even disagreement without barriers of hierarchy or seniority. Dhoni summed it best when he said Kohli, seven years his junior, was comfortable rejecting a hundred ideas of his if he wasn't convinced of their merit. Kohli, though, wasn't going to ignore the benefits of having the "most intelligent cricketer" around. Kohli's first act as full-time ODI and T20 captain was to set fields for England's batsmen, and Dhoni was often the link-man between him and the fielders.
With a noisy crowd and noisier vuvuzelas, Kohli, on occasions, struggled to get his message across from mid-off or midwicket, and Dhoni handled the task of relaying it to the fielder concerned. In the ninth over, Shikhar Dhawan assumed he would continue fielding at slip and jogged towards his position. Kohli wanted to make a late change and station him at midwicket, but he wasn't within Dhawan's earshot. Dhoni, though, was quick to spot it and alert Dhawan to head to his new position.
For the most part, Kohli would set a field and Dhoni - remember he is the undesignated vice-captain by virtue of his position behind the stumps - would make minor adjustments to ensure the fielder was where the captain wanted him to be. The square leg was asked to go squarer when Ravindra Jadeja was operating; on another occasion, the long off was made straighter. Dhoni also checked with Kohli about the rationale behind his fields. At the start of the 29th over, Kohli had a point inside the circle for Jadeja; he gestured to Dhoni that he was there to stop the single Joe Root was easily taking by cutting to the deep.
On the eve of the match, Kohli had cited a stat (an un-verifiable one) that apparently pegged Dhoni's success-rate with appeals at 95%. Whether or not it really is that high, Kohli reaped his first direct benefit of his predecessor's judgement after umpire CK Nandan turned down a caught-behind appeal against Eoin Morgan. Dhoni had gone up immediately in loud appeal - he usually doesn't if he is not convinced - and then signalled to Kohli that he use the DRS. Kohli instantly asked for the referral, and the decision was rightly overturned.
But, Dhoni was careful to avoid conflicting advice. When Kohli was doing the talking with his bowlers he stayed away. When Umesh Yadav was pasted for a six and four in the 47th over, Dhoni had a word with Kohli and not the bowler. Kohli, on the other hand, had no problems whenever the fielders appeared to look at Dhoni's direction for instructions - probably out of sheer habit - convinced as he was that both he and Dhoni were following the same playbook.
There was a piece of play that was insignificant in the larger context, but ultimately one Kohli would be thankful to Dhoni for. In the seventh over, Jasprit Bumrah produced a stunning throw from deep fine leg that found the stumps at the non-striker's end. India's fielders, and Kohli, began celebrating even before the umpire went upstairs to check if Alex Hales had made his ground.
The ball wasn't dead yet and the batsmen might have ventured an extra run on the overthrow. Only Dhoni anticipated the possibility and gestured to the fielder on the off side to back up the throw. This was coming from a man who, as captain, hated any extra run conceded on the field; he couldn't find a place for gun batsmen because he estimated they cost the side 20 runs with their fielding. Kohli is similarly intolerant of fielding lapses - he admonished himself twice in the afternoon for not gathering the ball cleanly - but it is Dhoni's eye for minutiae that he might like to emulate.