When Ravi Shastri called MS Dhoni "one of the all-time greats" of limited overs cricket, the India team director was not exaggerating, like he sometimes has the penchant to. However, interesting key aspect of those statements made by the India coach was that it was actually needed – just to remind everyone of what Dhoni has brought to the India cricket team.
With Virat Kohli showing he has the ability to lead India to success in Test matches, the inevitable question of "is Dhoni really the man for the job now in ODIs and T20Is?" was raised. Also understandable, since a team, more often than not, starts afresh at the end of a 50-over World Cup.
While India performed well at the CWC in Australia and New Zealand, winning every single match, before eventually succumbing to the champions Australia in the semifinals, there was a bit of that "hmm, is it getting a bit stale now, do we need a different thought, a different man at the helm?" question also rolling around.
Once Dhoni retired from Test match cricket, he was always putting himself in a vulnerable position. Because you will never be looked at the same way, if you are not playing all forms of cricket.
India's loss to Bangladesh in the ODI series put further pressure on the man who has made pressure look like a lazy Sunday morning stroll throughout his career, with Kohli's success as the skipper in Sri Lanka only increasing those "maybe it is time for a change" whispers.
Therefore, the limited-overs leg of the South Africa series becomes extremely important for Dhoni the captain – to prove his relevance to this India team as their leader and also to show he is undoubtedly the man to captain India in their World T20 campaign next year.
With Dhoni expected to bat up the order – the No.4 position looking likely – it will give the limited-overs master the perfect opportunity to prove to everyone – not that he will feel he has to, but still, in the modern era this is how it goes – he still has those batting chops. Yes, the power might have waned and those helicopter shots hidden somewhere deep inside his locker, but when it comes to identifying what is needed in a limited-overs innings, there really is nobody better than "Captain Cool."
The key for Dhoni will be to stay cool under pressure, even if things don't go his way in the first couple of matches; because, without a shadow of a doubt, his naysayers will be waiting to pounce on the slightest signs of weakness.
Staying patient and having faith in his ability – there is still no better finisher in the game – is what Dhoni will hope to do, as the eight matches – three T20Is and five ODIs -- he will be involved in rolls on.
Playing against the best usually brings out the best in you, and they don't make them much better and more competitive, particularly away from home, than South Africa – so the stage is perfectly set for Dhoni, then, to show everyone, he very much remains the main man.