What's next for MS Dhoni
All indications and conjectures point to him quitting the ODIs after the next year's World Cup in England and Wales.
He's a bonafide superstar and it'd be a big loss to the game if he just walked away from the game entirely, in one unexpected, nonchalantly swift announcement, as he did in the Tests in late 2014.
However, if that is indeed the case, it not only frees up a soon to be fiercely contested slot in the Indian team, but also frees up his schedule exclusively for Twenty20s.
Dhoni has only played for the now-defunct Pune franchise in the IPL apart from Chennai Super Kings. He can begin the shift to being a for-hire Twenty20 specialist beginning with Ram Slam in South Africa in November this year.
It could be the start of his freelancing, globe-trotting Twenty20 career. Yes, it would coincide with the Ranji Trophy, but he's no more playing Test cricket to continue his involvement there. This, followed by the Big Bash could be a help him stay match-fit.
By plying his skills in these fairly competitive leagues, his batting will remain potent, his keeping razor sharp. Not to mention that he would be well prepared for India's second leg of the tour of Australia (3 ODIs and 3 T20Is) in early 2019.
Since the Twenty20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in 2020 in Australia, it would make sense to focus on such a method of preparation. He can remain in contention for the keeper's slot by doing what he does best - in slightly different conditions, in leagues that would welcome the star wattage and fan following he brings along.
He's having the best IPL of his career, his hitting form, back to its best. He'd have no dearth of franchises to play for. Offers will pour in. Ram Slam and Big Bash's popularity will surge too if signs on.
If there's an Indian who can pull it off, it is him. Him, of insouciant coolness, him, of instantly quotable interviews, and of an instantly recognized acronym - MSD.
Which league will not benefit from the presence of arguably the best finisher in the game? Which franchise would not like to have, as Dean Jones puts it 'The fastest hands in the East'? Which crowd would not love the sight of the helicopter shot take off?
MSD has always taken the unconventional route and he might just play the T20s post the WC 2019. There are a surfeit of pretenders to his gloves.
On prima facie evidence though, his almost black magic coated glove-work is unmatched. His presence on the field is still invaluable. Getting old is the function of anything new, MSD has too. But this old fox still has new tricks up his sleeve.
Street smartness can't be taught, intuition can't be bought. To discount his cricketing intelligence will be short-sighted. He'll not overstay even for a single innings, if he believes his time's up.
Virat Kohli, who inherited the Indian captaincy in all forms, when Dhoni voluntarily renounced his role, will testify to that.
MS Dhoni numbers in Twenty20, as of May 12, 2018
Matches 288 | Runs 5970 | Strike Rate 136.61 | Highest Score 79* | Batting Average 38.51| Fifties 24 | Catches 146 | Stumpings 72
It is a wishful thought, that helps prolong a remarkable career. But it does have its merits. And so, the specialist-for-hire route is something he should consider. He might. It's a tantalizing prospect.
But with Dhoni, one never knows. There's plenty of fuel left in him; which highway he wants to drive on though, is something he's got to decide. The fans can only ponder and hope to see more of him, more often.