India vs New Zealand 2017: Sunil Gavaskar backs MS Dhoni to continue playing in T20Is

MS Dhoni
Dhoni's diminishing returns have increased the clamour on his T20I future

What's the story?

Despite the increasing criticism on MS Dhoni's dwindling form in recent times, legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar has backed the 36-year old to continue playing in T20Is. Defending the wicket-keeper batsman's struggles in the shortest format of the game, the former captain insisted that the seasoned campaigner gets unnecessary disapproval due to his advancing age even as under-whelming performances from youngsters like Hardik Pandya are being swept under the carpet.

"When somebody reaches an age beyond 30, then I think all of us are looking to find fault with that over-30 person every time. We actually hasten somebody's retirement from the game by demanding too much of the person. We do not look at the guys under 30 who actually haven't done anything but we tend to sort of overlook that. So, we will not look at the failure of others in the same innings. Hardik Pandya getting out for one by not picking up a googly, we will not look at that. We will not look at the fact that openers did not give the usual start. We will only point a finger at MS Dhoni. So that is unfortunate (and) that is India for you", Gavaskar told NDTV.

The 68-year old added, "For a cricketer, it helps if he plays continuously. Because you are in rhythm and in the groove most of the time even if you might not be taking wickets as a bowler or scoring runs as a batsman. Having actual games and match practice is very important. Match practice is fantastic not only for the physical aspect but also for the mental aspect. So clearly the more cricket anybody plays, it is better for him."

The context

Gavaskar's support for Dhoni comes in the wake of stringent criticism from the likes of VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar. In the aftermath of India's 40-run defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the second T20I in Rajkot, both former players called upon the team management to move past the ageing gloveman in T20Is.

The heart of the matter

During the second T20I against the Blackcaps at the SCA Stadium, India lost both openers early during their pursuit of a daunting target. After a brief partnership between skipper Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, the latter was dismissed by the medium pace of Colin Munro. The home team's woes were aggravated when Pandya failed to read a well-disguised googly from Ish Sodhi.

Even as the required run-rate kept mounting to unmanageable levels, Dhoni laboured to 28 runs off 28 deliveries and failed to provide adequate support to the in-form Kohli. By the time the veteran finally managed to muscle the ball beyond the boundary ropes to end up with a 37-ball 49, the game was all but over for the hosts.

What's next?

Dhoni will continue to be at the center of attention when India take on New Zealand for the series-deciding T20I at Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Author's take

Even though Gavaskar may be spot on regarding the need for sustained match practice for any cricketer irrespective of experience, time has come for India to replace Dhoni with a younger option in T20Is. While his proven skill-set continues to remain vital to India's ODI fortunes, the wicket-keeper batsman's fading prowess appears to be counter-productive to the team's current requirements in the shortest format of the game.

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Edited by Ram Kumar