Opinion: Why MS Dhoni might not play another match for India, even if he wants to
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been on a sabbatical ever since the heart wrenching run out of his during the high profile semi-final against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup. The former skipper has neither divulged any of his plans for the future nor has he announced his retirement. He has kept the whole world guessing.
But then, even if he decides to make a return to the national squad and prolong his playing career, he might not find a suitable spot to fit him in the playing XI. And this is something that Dhoni will have to understand. He cannot walk into the team right away using his iconic status.
Let us examine why.
India have a settled look at the top of the order. Rohit Sharma has been in the form of his life in all formats of the game, and walks into any Indian playing XI irrespective of the format that he plays in. Then, there is Shikhar Dhawan. Ever since he made a return to the side, he has been amongst the runs. In the T20 series against Sri Lanka, the left hander scored 32 and 52 in the two innings that he batted and looked solid.
In the subsequent ODI series against Australia too, Dhawan scored two fluent half centuries. It was his misfortune that he had to miss the flight to New Zealand due to an injury. India’s No.3 picks himself.
Shreyas Iyer seems to have solved India’s No.4 conundrum. The talented right hander has made his bat do the talking and has indeed made the crucial spot his own. In the recently concluded T20 series against New Zealand, Iyer averaged 51.00. Iyer further strengthened his credentials by scoring a hundred against the Black Caps in the first ODI, and followed that up with a fifty in the third ODI.
Also see - India New Zealand schedule
And then comes ‘wicket-keeper batsman’ KL Rahul. Rahul has probably had the best two months of his life, and might very well get the nod ahead of Dhoni for the role of 'keeper-batsman’. In the ODI series against the West Indies, Rahul averaged a colossal 61.67, scoring a scintillating hundred in the second ODI against the men in maroon. In the subsequent T20 series against Sri Lanka, Rahul averaged 49.50, and scored a fifty in the second T20. In the T20 series against the Kiwis, Rahul averaged 56.00, and also scored two timely fifties for his side.
In the ODI series against the Kiwis, Rahul has scores of 88*, 4 and 112. So, based on current form, he walks into the side as the keeper-batsman.
Dhoni shall have to understand that at the age of 38, his future is indeed uncertain. Even during the 2019 Word Cup, Dhoni looked rusty and was unable to force the pace. Against minnows Afghanistan, Dhoni took a painstaking 52 balls to score 28 runs, and in the semi-final against New Zealand, his strike rate was just 69.44, at a time when the asking rate was mounting.
Even Indian skipper Kohli has been extremely impressed with Rahul as the ‘keeper batsman’..
"Him doing really well with the gloves has really opened up another kind of scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in terms of playing an extra batter. If he can keep that well, and perform well with the bat, then why not? As I said, this is something that we are looking to continue for a while. And nothing taken away from anyone else, it's just what brings the best balance to the side."
This might very well mean that Dhoni’s playing days are over, and he cannot walk into the side any longer. Rahul has proved his credentials both in T20 and ODI cricket, and will remain the first choice keeper-batsman of the Indian side.
Yes it might be argued that anything is possible with Dhoni, but then his return to the Indian team does not seem like a bright possibility, especially so in the ODIs. However, with the IPL coming up, anything can happen. Form can desert players, injuries can rule out some. For the time being, as things stand, having a fabulous IPL season is the way back for Dhoni into the Indian side. That is, if he wants to return.
Neither is is his will known, nor is his future.
Published 11 Feb 2020, 13:03 IST