The debate over India's Test captaincy could be settled after the ongoing Pakistan tour of India, with Delhi stars Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli seen as likely replacements in case selectors decide to relieve Mahendra Singh Dhoni of his charge.

With the two T20 matches ending tied 1-1, a victory against Pakistan in the three-match one-day series may yet give Dhoni a breather. But the Indian cricket board (BCCI) slowly seems to be acknowledging that it might be time to split the captaincy and blood a new leader in Tests.

Voices calling for a change of guard have grown after India suffered a humiliating 1-2 defeat -- the first loss to England at home in 28 years. This followed disastrous tours of England and Australia -- both lost 0-4 -- which means India has lost 10 of the last 12 Tests played against quality opposition.

While Dhoni's place in the side is hardly in question, cricket bosses are looking at a future scenario in the context of a new look India squad. Of the two candidates, Gambhir has displayed leadership skills as a stand-in skipper in ODIs and also in the IPL, but Kohli has been in far superior form this year.

In the past, Gambhir has led India in six one-day internationals, winning all of them, and also captained Kolkata Knight Riders to victory in IPL-5. He is seen as an inspirational skipper who leads from the front, but his current patchy form may go against him.

Kohli initially struggled against England in the Tests but a superb century at Nagpur won him many plaudits, including from Sunil Gavaskar, who said making Kohli Test captain could energize the side. He was also in outstanding form in the ODIs and T20s throughout 2011. At 24, he may seem a tad young for the responsibility but BCCI sources point out that Dhoni himself wasn't much older when he was appointed captain of the T20 squad in 2007, four years after his international debut.

The trend of banking on youngsters is also seen to weigh in favour of Kohli. South Africa skipper Graeme Smith took charge at 21, barely a year or so after his debut for the Springboks in 2002. Likewise, England's Alastair Cook became Test captain six years after his debut while taking charge of the ODI team even earlier.

Sources, however, point out that India's troubles are unlikely to be settled by a change of captain alone. Dhoni can hardly be blamed for the lack of incisive quick bowlers, the failure of spinners--England's Monty Panesar comfortably outbowled India's tweakers--and the indifferent form of key batsmen like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gambhir.

On the other hand, a process of rebuilding is inevitable and Tendulkar's decision not to grace ODIs again points to the inexorable passage of time taking a toll even on legends. Tendulkar's final call on the Test format cannot be too far away and the BCCI is looking to prepare and even hasten change.

Times View

It is indeed time that the selectors split the captaincy of the Indian team in the three formats. On current form and past track record, there is a very strong case for retaining Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the ODI captain and a reasonably good one for continuing with him in the T20 format.

In Test matches, on the other hand, three successive series defeats against top teams, the last at home, suggests that MSD is not really up to the job.

If the choice is between Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, we would suggest going with Kohli. Not only is he younger and hence likely to be around for much longer, Gambhir is at the moment not looking entirely convincing as a Test batsmen, which could well weigh his captaincy down.

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