Sanjay Manjarekar questions MS Dhoni's place in the Indian side
What's the story?
Sanjay Manjarekar, weighed in on the debate surrounding MS Dhoni's place in the Indian limited-overs side, commenting that 36-year-old's selection should be up for debate like any other player, despite his status as a legend of the game and the wide fan-following he enjoys.
"He (Dhoni) is not the game changer as often as he was in the past," Manjarekar said. "Earlier, he could tonk four sixes off six balls at will, now he can hit only one. He now has to rely more on others to win games."
A former Indian cricketer and now commentator, Manjarekar defended the likes of Ajit Agarkar and VVS Laxman, who had come in for a lot of criticism from Dhoni fanatics for questioning the former Indian skipper's spot in the Indian T20 side.
"If there is someone outside the team showing potential to contribute more than Dhoni does in his current form, it's a matter to be discussed and debated, and without inviting angry and irrational responses. It's healthy for the game and must not be stifled," he said.
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Having retired from Test cricket prior to the 2015 World Cup, Dhoni stepped down as skipper of the Indian ODI and T20 side earlier this year but remains a vital member of the Indian side in the limited-overs formats of the game.
However, critics have been calling for Dhoni to be axed from India's T20 squad citing his inability to go for the big hits like he used to do earlier in his career.
The heart of the matter
The calls for Dhoni's T20 axing became louder following India's loss in the 2nd T20I against New Zealand recently in which Dhoni was unable to lead India to victory.
Chasing a target of 197, India could only score 156 in their 20 overs with Dhoni's run tally of 47 runs from 39 balls inviting a lot of criticism for being 'too slow' for the T20 format.
Despite Agarkar and Laxman suggesting that it was time for Dhoni to step aside from the shortest format of the game, the wicketkeeper-batsman found support from his skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri who both hailed Dhoni as an invaluable asset to the side.
Manjarekar, however, is not amused by the backing Dhoni has received and more so with the backlash, the former Indian cricketers were subjected to and hopes Dhoni's career doesn't drag on the way Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev's did towards the end of their career.
Manjarekar is disappointed that a vast majority of the Indian cricket fans are not able to take constructive criticism in their stride and believes that no player should be treated bigger than the game.
Dhoni will have the chance to answer his critics in the upcoming three-match ODI and three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka which will follow the ongoing Test series.
Having been whitewashed at home 9-0 in the three formats of the game, Sri Lanka has started out much better this time around in the first Test which is being played at the Eden Gardens currently.
With Agarkar and Laxman inviting a lot of flak on social media for their comments on Dhoni, Manjarekar has taken care to be more careful with his views and does make a valid point.
No matter how good a player has been in the past, the present and future needs to be taken into consideration and it is highly unfair if a deserving player is forced to sit out of the side because of no fault of his.
Having said that, Dhoni's statistics prove that he has been playing well recently and while it is true that he is no longer the hard-hitting batsman he used to be in his initial days, Dhoni's vast experience and ability to read the game ensures that the Indian team can still benefit from his new role as a player who guides the team home.