After the conclusion of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the absence of the name MS Dhoni from the limited overs squad for the West Indies tour suggested that India had started to move ahead without the legend.
Dhoni cited serving the Indian Army as the reason for not playing the limited overs matches against West Indies, and Rishabh Pant donned the gloves on the entire tour. A few fans expected that Dhoni would return to the T20I squad against South Africa, but his omission from the same has raised the question: will we ever see Dhoni playing T20Is again?
The speculations regarding Dhoni's retirement from international cricket have been hovering around for quite some time now. And his exclusion from the T20I squad makes these speculations even stronger.
Dhoni is 38 now, and there is no hiding the fact that he has reached the last phase of his international career. His fitness and experience still make him an asset for the team, but India have already started their preparations for the 2020 T20 World Cup by grooming youngsters for the same, which means Dhoni may not be flying to Australia for the mega event.
There is no doubt about how capable Dhoni is in the T20 format. In 98 T20Is, he has scored 1617 runs at an average of 37.6 and a strike rate of 126.13. Even in IPL 2019, Dhoni was outstanding with the bat as he scored 416 runs in 15 matches at an average of 83.20 and a strike rate of 134.62, which shows that he is still a lethal weapon in T20 format.
Add to that the fact that Dhoni's lightning-quick wicket-keeping skills still have no match, his selection in the Indian squad is justified even today despite his age and the time he has left in his international career.
But with only 22 T20Is to go before India's first game in the T20 World Cup, and given the selectors' decision to groom Pant and the likes of Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson for the tournament, things do not seem to be in Dhoni's favor.
Sure, the former Indian captain still deserves a place in the squad. But his age and the strong performances of the youngsters waiting in the wings to take over the wicket-keeping gloves make it difficult for the team management to continue with Dhoni in the longer run.
It will be disheartening for Dhoni's fans to see the winning captain of the inaugural T20 World Cup go out without a farewell match in the T20I format. He deserves it, for all his contributions to Indian cricket. But looking at the current scheme of things, Dhoni might have played his last T20I game for India.
Also see - Live cricket scorePublished 12 Sep 2019, 18:06 IST