Mohammad Azharuddin expects MS Dhoni to play 2019 World Cup
What's the story?
Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin believes that MS Dhoni will play the 2019 World Cup and perhaps call it quits as a player at the end of the tournament.
Dhoni's future, especially in the T20 format has been a hot topic for debate lately with many critics blaming the former skipper for India's loss in the 2nd T20I against New Zealand.
However, Azhar feels that Dhoni has played enough cricket to figure out when best to leave the game and added that the timing should be for Dhoni to decide.
"I don't know what is going through his mind so I really don't know. I think it should be left to him but as far as I can read it, I think he will probably go on and play the 2019 World Cup. It appears that way to me," Azharuddin told the Khaleej Times in an interview on Thursday.
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While former Indian players such as Ajit Agarkar, VVS Laxman, and Akash Chopra had questioned Dhoni's selection in the T20 format, the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra backed Dhoni to perform, with the latter even claiming that the wicketkeeper-batsman can play the 2020 World T20 as well.
Dhoni's biggest backing though came from skipper Virat Kohli and Team India head coach Ravi Shastri, with both echoing Dhoni's value as an inspirational figure, team player and a highly experienced cricketer in the shorter formats of the game.
The heart of the matter
Azhar, whose Test career finished at 99 matches following his alleged role in the match-fixing scandal in 2000, is unsure as to what Dhoni is thinking about his future but feels that the former Indian skipper still has a lot to offer to the Indian side.
Dhoni retired from Test cricket during India's tour of Australia in 2014/15 before stepping down as skipper of India's limited overs side in 2016, allowing Kohli to take on the mantle of Indian captaincy in all three formats of the game.
Considering the sudden manner of Dhoni's decisions regarding his future, Azhar admitted that is hard to really predict what the 36-year-old is thinking at the moment regarding his future.
Azhar also weighed in on the future of Indo-Pak cricket and believes it is up to the governments on both sides of the border to work out a solution but added that the scenario looks bleak considering the present security situation.
The Men in Blue has been on a roll under Virat Kohli's captaincy with series wins over Sri Lanka away as well as Australia and New Zealand at home and will welcome their Asian neighbours, back on their home turf, this time around in their next assignment.
Dhoni will have some time off with the Test matches being played first, starting with the first Test beginning at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on November 16.
As someone who has stepped aside from Test cricket and limited-overs captaincy on his own terms, when one was least expecting it, it is best to leave the decision regarding Dhoni's future to the man himself.
Besides, the criticism levied at him has been unfair to a large extent and there is no doubt that he remains an important figure in the present setup of the Indian side.