Why MS Dhoni shouldn't retire just yet
After India's shock exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, many fans have been speculating whether we will ever see Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Indian colors again.
Sent in to bat at number seven in India's crucial tie against New Zealand, Dhoni tried his level best to get India past the finishing line and set up a historic final at Lord's. Alas, a spectacular run out from Martin Guptill sealed Dhoni's fate and that of India, sending the visitors back home without the coveted trophy.
The upset led to scathing criticism of the team management and the captain. But one decision, in particular, left many pundits dumbfounded. Why was Dhoni sent in to bat so late in the innings, especially considering he is known to take time before settling into his innings these days?
What made the decision even more painful was that this was perhaps Dhoni's swansong, the last major ICC tournament he would play before calling time on one of the most glittering careers in Indian cricket history. His wicket promoted speculation that perhaps this was his last innings, and it was poetic in a sense that he finished on a run out when his career started with one as well.
But champions do not accept destiny; they write and rewrite it. And Dhoni has done enough to ensure that he leaves the game with his head held high and on his terms. He deserves to have one last run at World Cup glory in the ICC World T20 in Australia next year, which should serve as his swansong from the game.
India still need Dhoni and his batting prowess at number four. After Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh lost favor with the selectors, many players have been tried at that position and they have all failed to do justice to it. That has put immense pressure on the top three - Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in particular - to score the bulk of the runs for the side.
New Zealand exposed this weakness in the semi-final as they sent the top order packing for just five runs, leaving the lower order and Dhoni with an almost impossible task. Even then Mahi managed to get India close to the finishing line; had it not been for an unbelievable run out, perhaps India would have been the team that lifted the Cup on July 14.
It seems that the team is stuck in a similar situation that they found themselves in the '90s. When Sachin Tendulkar got out, television screens all over the country were switched off because not many fans believed that the lower order could come good.
With the arrival of Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the situation began to change, as these players shouldered the burden of batting along with Tendulkar.
Right now, due to the departures of several experienced players, India's middle-order is a weakness that opposition teams know they can exploit. In such a situation, jettisoning Dhoni off so early might lead to more failure. Instead, he should be encouraged to play his role in revamping India's batting line-up so that it resembles something similar to the early 2000s.
Moreover, a cricketer like Dhoni deserves a proper sendoff. He has probably done more for Indian cricket than any player before him, and it would be a shame if his fate were decided by anyone but himself.
An intelligent man, Dhoni will never allow himself to become a burden on the Indian team and will ensure that he leaves the side on a positive note. His fans would be hoping that happens in Australia, with him holding the World T20 trophy aloft with his teammates.