Opinion: Why Dhoni's iconic status can prove to be a liability for the Indian team
India has just finished a successful tour of the West Indies, thrashing the hosts in all three formats of the game. And, during the Test series, the squad for this month’s T20 series against South Africa was announced. A notable absentee from the squad was the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And when asked, chief selector MSK Prasad said that Dhoni had again made himself unavailable for the South African tour.
Now the question is, what is going on in Dhoni’s mind? How long does the iconic cricketer want to continue? If he wants to carry on till the T20 World Cup next year, why is Dhoni not a part of the T20 squad?
The man, the mystery
The cloak of mystery has enveloped Dhoni throughout his career. He tossed the ball to a little known Joginder Sharma in the 2007 World T20 ahead of the more experienced Harbhajan Singh, and that move enabled India to win the trophy. He promoted himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup final, scored a scintillating 91* and enabled a cricket-mad nation to lift the World Cup after 28 years.
He ’stumped’ the world in his own inimitable way by announcing his retirement from Tests in the year 2014. He was just 32, and was the captain of the Indian team. Yet, he chose to walk away in the middle of a crucial away series when even his staunchest follower would not have predicted it.
And, while the mystery added to the aura of Dhoni when he seemed invincible, when the cloak of invincibility is slowly ebbing away, fans want answers. Dhoni has not made any of his intentions clear and there is little doubt that his abilities as a batsman are on the decline. In the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni struggled on many occasions to get going and played out a lot of dot balls. Also, with age not in his side, many even expected Dhoni to announce his retirement from international cricket. But, Dhoni has not made his future plans clear and has again left it to the world to guess.
The granting of an unofficial ‘icon’ status to certain cricketers has sort of proven to be a stigma in Indian cricket. For, these icons stay well beyond their prime and stake a place in the team because of their illustrious past. And it becomes extremely difficult to leave them out from the squad because of who they are.
Sachin Tendulkar was a prime example where the selectors just could not drop him because of who he was. After all, he was the ‘God of Cricket’ wasn’t he? Who could ever tell ‘God’ that his time was up?
The master batsman carried on for a good two years after the 2011 World Cup, even though he was just a pale shadow of his former self. Also, the seemingly unending quest for his unprecedented 100th hundred was another reason to keep Tendulkar around. The 100th hundred was a peak that no mortal batsman had achieved before, and it was a good way of keeping Tendulkar in the scheme of things.
Tendulkar would eventually retire in 2013 in front of his adoring home fans in Mumbai and seemingly on his ‘own terms’. The same seems to be the case with Dhoni as well.
It is no secret that Dhoni has been struggling with the bat in recent times, but no one in the team has been brave enough to point it out to him. And that is why, an iconic cricketer staying beyond his prime can prove to be a liability for the team. Dhoni’s slow starts put pressure on the other Indian batsmen and they perish trying to up the ante.
And, the iconic status of MS Dhoni might prove to be the team’s downfall going into the future. Dhoni might well carry on for some more time, as his ‘Icon’ status will allow him to do so. But then, in the larger scheme of things, Indian cricket will be the loser.
NOTE: The writer's views need not necessarily reflect the views of Sportskeeda.
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