What does the future hold for MS Dhoni in the T20I format?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni - Indian cricket's stalwart and arguably the most successful captain of the team - has won all the ICC limited over trophies in existence. Recently becoming the first Indian to make 300 T20 appearances, Dhoni was also the captain of the team that won the inaugural WorldT20 in 2007.
As far as fitness is concerned, he can give any cricketer a run for their money even at the age of 37. As a batsman though, he has not been the same the last few years. He is no longer the batsman who used to smack bowlers for sixes all around the park and finish off games as smoothly as he'd like.
Although Dhoni still averages a decent 36.85 in the shortest format, his strike rate has taken a beating. Is it time for him to surrender his place for a younger cricketer?
In the recently concluded T20I series against New Zealand, Dhoni scored 39*, 20 and 2 from the three matches. His series average came out to be 30.50 and strike rate was 117.30.
Now it is important to understand that Dhoni usually bats low down the order and hence, a strike rate of 117.30 might not always help the team to cross the line in a 20-over game. In the last match of the series, Dhoni scored just 2 runs off 4 balls and eventually, India ended up on the losing side by a mere 4 runs.
In situations like these, a single ball can create a huge difference, even leading to a series victory for the team. And so many believe it is now necessary to look at other prospects for the shortest format.
Ahead of the series opener, legendary former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar had also left out Dhoni's name from his predicted playing XI, and had included Shubman Gill in his place for the three matches. Former NZ coach Mike Hesson also stated that Dhoni should be given rest since the T20I series was a "huge opportunity for Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik to solve those World Cup decisions"
India next play Australia at home, hosting them for 2 T20Is and 5 ODIs, with the T20Is starting as early as the 24th of February. It would be interesting to see if the team management continues to show faith in Dhoni for the shorter format or decides to go for a younger option in Kedar Jadhav or Shubman Gill, both of whom missed out on the entire T20I series against New Zealand.
A Rishabh Pant or a Dinesh Karthik can easily keep wickets in a Dhoni-less team India. But will they be asked to do so?