Why is former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni playing hide and seek? What has led to his lack of interest in playing for the country? These are the questions that are on the mind of everyone connected to the cricket fraternity.
Sportskeeda has learnt that a lack of consensus regarding his batting spot may have led to this queer situation. Back in 2017, immediately after relinquishing captaincy, Dhoni wanted to bat higher up the order. However, that specific situation didn’t materialise and therefore, the Jharkhand cricketer seems to have lost interest in playing for India, BCCI sources confirmed.
Sources also confirmed that Dhoni hadn’t approached the team management about the matter as he was an automatic choice for a top-order spot. But, when Yuvraj Singh came back into the Indian team for a short while till the 2017 Champions Trophy, Dhoni was again pushed down the order.
Later, the team management kept experimenting with the number four batting position and among them it looked as if Ambati Rayudu would be given a long rope. However, the team management opted for Vijay Shankar in that position for the 2019 World Cup, despite the Tamil Nadu all-round not registering a single international fifty at the time.
Shankar was selected on the insistence of a powerful member from the Indian support staff. This again, didn’t go down well with some of the senior members of the team but none of them created a hue and cry, during the tournament.
Rishabh Pant selected to bat higher up over Dhoni
Our source said that the team management then opted for Rishabh Pant, while Dhoni was always made to bat in the lower-order. Even in the semifinal game that India lost to New Zealand, Dhoni batted at number seven, raising eyebrows among fans and pundits alike.
Indian team coach Ravi Shastri silenced the critics saying, “Absolutely not (on whether India should have promoted Dhoni). Because at 5 for 3, had Dhoni too gone, the game would have been over. But with Dhoni still batting in the 48th over, we were very much in the game but for that run-out.”
"And what is Dhoni's strength. I will argue with anyone who wants to argue. What is Dhoni's strength? What is he known for? The best finisher in the game. So where should he be batting....at the finish or at the top?" Shastri added
Incidentally, that was the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain’s last match for India. He opted out of the West Indies tour, and never donned the India cricket jersey again. Dhoni has an immaculate average while batting up the order for India, something he wanted to do after leaving captaincy in all formats.
With Dhoni not interested to play for India any more, all focus is on how and when he will announce his retirement.
“He is big player and no one can tell him when to hang his boots. He has consciously decided not to play for the country again and will announce his retirement officially when the time is appropriate,” a source said.
One shouldn’t forget that Dhoni was critical of Sachin Tendulkar’s picking and choosing which games to play just before the impending 100th international century.
The former Indian captain had even expressed it to the BCCI management and that saw the master blaster bowing out of ODI cricket just before the last India-Pakistan series at home.
"What he had preached, he should also practice now,” our source added.
6 reasons why MS Dhoni should not play for India
1. Lack of match-day practice at the highest level
2. No domestic game participation, so he could be rusty
3. Presence of full-time and part-time wicket-keeping options in the India team (Rahul, Pant)
4. IPL can’t be the sole criteria for India selection
5. Can't play as a pure batsman due to depth in the batting line-up
6. Squad balance is broken. Pant, in whom Kohli invested in so much over the years, will be left nowhere then
6 reasons why Dhoni should play for India
1. Experience of playing, captaining and winning WC matches and titles
2. Knows the team, teammates and is famous for backing players in their strong positions. Could pass on this knowledge to Kohli.
3. Arguably still the best finisher in the game.
4. Big-match and big-situation player
5. Support leader to Kohli (can help to break India's semis streak in world titles)
6. Still appears fit, no reason to keep him out on that front.