Before last season of the Indian T20 League began, the Chennai-based franchise conducted a practice session where the stands in the Chepauk stadium were thronged by fans just to catch a glimpse of MS Dhoni. The video went viral with Dhoni fans celebrating his aura and what he means to the franchise. While Chennai cannot do without a brand name like Dhoni, does the national team need Dhoni anymore?
It has been quite a while since Dhoni played T20Is for India. The last one came in February against Australia. Since then, he has played in the Indian T20 League but has since been absent from the shortest format of the game. He was part of the ODI World Cup squad, but has since been absent from cricketing circles, taking a hiatus and delaying a much-anticipated retirement decision while serving the army.
Last week, Dhoni was back in the nets and it raised speculations about his inclusion in the team for the series against West Indies. But none of that materialised and the biggest question Indian management and selectors are facing right now is the future of MS Dhoni.
What Ravi Shastri said
When asked, India head coach, Ravi Shastri had a rather interesting comment to make - "It all depends on when he starts playing and how he is playing during the Indian T20 League. What are the other people doing with the wicket-keeping gloves or what is the form of those players as opposed to Dhoni's form. The league becomes a massive tournament because that could be the last tournament after which more or less your 15 is decided.” he said.
Now, that’s a rather fair statement to make about the composition of the team for the tournament. But what shocked at least a few was that Dhoni would still be in contention nearly a year from now when the T20 World Cup is set to take place.
Dhoni hasn’t been the best of performers for India in recent times. His prowess in the death overs – a USP for him all these years – has waned and he is no longer seen as the gigantic batsman he once was. With no leadership role in the team either, does Dhoni really add any value?
He has only two half-centuries in the format for India and his last innings – a very aggressive 23-ball 40 – aside, Dhoni has done little in T20I cricket in recent times.
Even in ODIs, his strike rate has been a massive concern. His inability to kick on against New Zealand in the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup – his last innings in India colours – was seen as the final nail to Dhoni’s international career. But he has prolonged the retirement so much and now we are left speculating about his participation in a World Cup next year when he hasn’t even been playing for India in the past few months.
It is not like India are out of keeper options either. Rishabh Pant is clearly seen as the future, but even if he does not make it, Dinesh Karthik and Sanju Samson wait in the wings. Karthik, unlike his ODI reputation, is a whole different beast in T20Is and deserves a place in the team.
Samson, on the other hand, was recently recalled to the side for the series against West Indies in place of an injured Dhawan and can keep too. Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who have been in fine form domestically, are both capable of holding their own behind the stumps too which puts Shastri’s comments about Dhoni in the questionable category.
With no recent form, waning skills and age against him, Dhoni is unlikely to add much to this Indian T20I side which is already on the back-foot in terms of thinking in the shortest format.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar