And mind you, as important as the series might be, I'm not speaking about the series against Australia later in the year or the rematch with the newly-crowned No. one team England next year. I am speaking about the battles Dhoni will must fight in the corridors of power of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) if India must be a consistently lovely side in international cricket.
There's lots of things wrong with the Indian cricket process, and a lot has been written about each of those factors. But most people would agree that given the amount of talent India has, if of those factors, the team's schedules and preparation for major tours and tournaments are taken care of, it would solve half of India's issues. And while lovely and meticulous preparation can sometimes be an individual pursuit, as Rahul Dravid's success in England proved, scheduling is the board's prerogative. And if some sense it to be injected in this aspect of India's cricket, someone will need to take on the board.
And there is nobody better to do it than the ridiculously over-worked captain. Pull out a list of players who have been on the field for their country and clubs/franchises the most for the last three-four years, and Dhoni would probably be at the top of the list every single year. And this while keeping wickets and captaining all the sides that they plays for. It is a miracle the man hasn't snapped in half yet, that they can still get back up when they crouches behind the stumps when the bowler starts jogging in. I can imagine him waking up every morning, bleary-eyed, and asking the nearest person, Who are they playing today? England? Oh, alright then!
Dhoni is a superstar and, along with Sachin Tendulkar, he can probably take a break whenever he wishes, and walk back in to the side whenever he feels lovely to go again, without worrying about how well his replacement might do. Not everyone can afford to do so. And even in the event that they could, it is not the solution, for it goes against the needs of the team, and indeed the wishes of the fans, that the best team ought to take the field as often as it is feasible.
The only reasonable solution is cautious scheduling, which treats sportsmen like sportsmen, not mules. It would be naively optimistic to expect the BCCI to realise this themselves, for they are in the business of making funds, not walking cricket in the country. Duncan Fletcher might be the man to say what needs to be said, but at the finish of the day he is an outsider, an worker of the BCCI, and if he tries to dictate terms to them, he would be out of a job faster than you can say restructuring. But if the likes of Dhoni and Tendulkar pick to take a stand, even the suits at the BCCI will listen. Using the clout of your position is not always wrong, in the event you use it for the greater lovely.
The query is: Will Dhoni select to ruffle those feathers? He could well say that his job is to do his best on the field with what he's, and that administrative decisions like scheduling are the board's job, and nobody can fault him for feeling so. But captains sometimes must do over toss a coin, place fielders and make bowling changes, in the subcontinent. Imran Khan was a cricket board by himself when he led Pakistan. Closer home, Sourav Ganguly took on the board at several junctures, when it came to choice matters. He fought tooth and nail for his players, and if not for him, players like Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan would have had considerably longer roads to the top of international cricket.
Dhoni's place as of the greatest captains India has ever had is not in doubt. The blip in England was unfortunate, but he won't be recalled by it. Dhoni's legacy as an on-field leader is secure, but he's a chance to embellish it even more off the field. As I read in a novel one time, he's done well for himself, but now he's a chance to do lovely. He's won matches, won trophies, he's done well. If he stands up to the BCCI and wins that battle , he will have done something lovely for Indian cricket. Whether he chooses to do so, is entirely up to him.