Will MS Dhoni play an ODI for India again?
There was a piece of news that dropped like a bombshell yesterday morning. Ravi Shastri revealed that one of India’s greatest cricketers may have well played his last ODI for India. In fact, this is exactly what Shastri revealed to the media.
“I have had a conversation with MS Dhoni and that is between us. He has finished his Test career, he may soon end his ODI career... In all probability, he will finish One-day cricket. People must respect that he’s played non-stop in all formats of the game for a while. At his age, probably the only format he’ll want to play is T20 cricket which means he’ll have to start playing again, get back into the groove because he’s going to play in the IPL and see how his body reacts.”
Does this mean that MS Dhoni might have played his last ODI for his country? Does this mean that the last image of Dhoni in ODI cricket will be the great man walking away with his head bent down, after being run out in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand? Has he decided to walk away quietly without any fanfare and the prospect of a final ODI farewell in front of millions of his fans?
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The journey of Dhoni in ODI cricket has been a riveting one. It was in the year 2004 that he made his ODI debut for India. It seems like a long time ago. It was the time when he had the long mane, it was the time when he had the license to go after the bowling from the world go, the time when no responsibility curtailed him. The 148* he scored against Pakistan was one where the valour of youth was on full display. Dhoni carted the Pakistani bowlers around the park, and announced his arrival in style.
After the initial years, things started to change. He was made the captain of the team in the year 2007, and he also donned the role of the finisher for his side. This meant that Dhoni had to be more cautious and put a prize on his wicket, as the team started depending on him to bail them out of precarious situations.
And then, came that night on April 2, 2011. It was like a fairy tale becoming true. Dhoni came in at the fall of Virat Kohli’s wicket, with the World Cup final in the balance, and scored 91* off just 79 balls. His iconic six off Nuwan Kulasekara to enable a cricket mad nation to lift the World Cup after a gap of almost three decades will be etched in the minds of fans forever.
Remember the 113* against Pakistan at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, his second home - Chennai. India were tottering at 27/5, and the captain bailed the team out with a gritty and pulsating hundred that allowed the Indian team to post a respectable total of 227 runs on the board. With the cream of India's batting line-up back in the dug out, the skipper led the charge, mixing caution and aggression against the arch-rivals. It was Dhoni scripting a comeback out of nowhere, something that he has mastered over his illustrious careeer.
There's that whirlwind knock of 139 against Australia at Chandigarh in the year 2013. It was the Dhoni of old, a Dhoni who rolled back the clock and dismantled the hapless Australian bowling attack. He was the wrecker in chief, and propelled India to a score of 303. He scored five sixes in that innings, and his brutal assault on Shane Watson and James Faulkner will be etched in the minds of all those who saw the classic unravel before their eyes. Dhoni has given us gems time after time.
And then, on one chilly morning in January 2017 came the news that Dhoni will no longer be the captain of the Indian team in limited overs cricket. Probably the great man thought that Kohli could settle into the groove of leading the side with the 2019 World Cup in mind. It was also the time when people had started talking about Dhoni’s retirement. But he was not done.
In the ODI series against Australia in the beginning of 2019, Dhoni was the sheet anchor, allowing India to win the series 2-1 against the hosts. It was also the series when he bagged the man of the series award, and a series that may have well given the iconic cricketer the belief that he can lead the charge with the bat, during the 2019 World Cup. Maybe there were more flickers left in the lamp.
And the great man carried on, with the solitary goal of enabling the team to lift the 2019 World Cup trophy. But then came that moment that shattered the dream of Dhoni and millions of Indians. With 25 runs required off 11 balls in the pulsating World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, Dhoni tucked the ball to square leg, and scampered for two runs. Martin Guptill’s throw caught Dhoni inches short of his crease, and the man who had enabled India past the finish line on innumerable occasions in the past walked away, with his head down in deep disaapointment.
And now here we are, with the news that it might all be over. The man who ignited a millions dreams might have finished his ODI journey quietly, and might never play an ODI match for his country again.
With this news, it feels as if the childhoods of millions of Indian fans might well have come to an end.