Though he is not captain anymore, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was still leading the charge in the optional practice session for the Indian cricket team at the Eden Gardens, ahead of the third and final One-Day International (ODI) against England on Sunday. The former skipper, who scored a magnificent 134 to help India win the second ODI, thereby clinching the three-match series 2-0 at Cuttack, was seen inspecting the pitch on Saturday. Meanwhile, captain Virat Kohli decided to skip the session.
The team went in for an optional practice on Saturday and Dhoni was seen doing what normally a skipper does -- inspecting the pitch, taking local feedback and giving his teammates a pep talk -- with Kohli deciding to skip training and head coach Anil Kumble not around.
After the practice session that lasted for about two hours, Dhoni, who stepped down from captaincy just before the ODI series, was seen heading to the pitch that looked as flat as it can be without any tinge of grass. He went down on his knees to have a close look at the strip and felt the surface by placing both his palms.
In Dhoni's esteemed company was national selector and former Bengal captain Devang Gandhi with whom the Jharkhand dasher had a lengthy discussion afterwards.
In India's 15-run win over England in the second ODI, Dhoni was seen playing a proactive role behind the stumps, especially in the death overs, as he was seen making the field placings and giving his inputs to Kohli during the run chase of the visiting team.
Hailing Dhoni's new-found role, India seamer Bhuvenshwar Kumar said: "A wicketkeeper is always the second person after captain to assess the match condition and give inputs.
"He (Dhoni) watches everything closely. He gives feedback how a batsman is playing. When skipper Virat is fielding it's always easy for Dhoni to communicate his ideas on what can we do. It's very useful when your wicketkeeper becomes proactive," Kumar said at the pre-match press conference.
Apart from Kohli, the ones to skip the match-eve optional practice session included Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh, Lokesh Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya.
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar oversaw the practice session.
Meanwhile, Shikhar Dhawan, who had an injury scare yesterday and went to a hospital for medical examination, was seen at the nets without any sign of injury.
"He's perfectly fine," said a team official, making it clear that Dhawan is available for selection.
However, it remains to be seen whether the team think-tank persists with Dhawan who has been out of sorts in his form with scores of one and 11 in the last two ODIs.
Ajinkya Rahane, who may come in the playing eleven if Dhawan is to be replaced, had a full intensity practice session.
(With PTI inputs)