Wondering if Dhoni will ever play again? Here’s the answer

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Just as Indian fans were awaiting the India Australia clash on Friday, the BCCI decided to drop a bombshell with their announcement of the annual contract list. While a lot of young players were squeezed into the Grade C contracts, there was a massive, glaring omission in the form of former skipper MS Dhoni.

Dhoni, whose last match for India was the World Cup semi-final in 2019 against New Zealand, has been on an extended break serving the army, but even after that, he hasn't returned to the national side, sparking speculation. So does this omission from the contract list seal the deal for Dhoni's coloured career? Or is it another break before he takes over behind the stumps in Australia for the T20 World Cup later this year?

In simple terms, it should be no surprise that he was omitted from the contract list announced. He hadn't played for the last six months and the period of the contract is from October 2019 to September 2020, a phase where he is unlikely to play a lot of games, if at all any. 

The T20 World Cup, for which head coach Ravi Shastri said Dhoni has a shot should he play well in the Indian T20 League, comes after September 2020 which makes it outside the contract period. As such, #thankyoudhoni trending on social media is an overreaction to what was an expected outcome.

Read | An ode to MS Dhoni

The selectors had also made it very clear that post the 2019 World Cup, India were looking to "move on" from Dhoni. He also stated that Dhoni himself endorsed this as a way of grooming youngsters. 

His days in international cricket are definitely numbered. Retirement should surely be on his mind but since he hasn't revealed any plans yet, it is likely that he hopes for a last-ditch hurrah at the World Cup in Australia later this year, a country where he announced his Test retirement.

Should Dhoni have a decent Indian T20 League, India are likely to test him in a few bilaterals before the T20 World Cup in Australia before taking a call on his selection. A real good season like 2018 or 2019 could seal the deal for Dhoni's selection in the World Cup team although he will still be expected to play a few bilaterals prior to that. 

It is completely unlikely that we will see Dhoni in the squad before the end of the Indian T20 League. It is also unlikely that if he hasn't announced his retirement by then that we will not see him in the team after the tournament given India's preference of giving senior players a really long rope. 

Being dropped from the central contract does not mean Dhoni cannot be picked in the squad. It only means he is unlikely to play a lot of games in this period which was already a known fact. If he does have a domineering IPL, expect the team to welcome him back for a big, final hurrah at the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Dhoni has started preparing for a return as he turned up at the Jharkhand nets. Could he possibly play a Ranji Trophy game? Maybe. It isn't beyond Dhoni to show what he is capable of one final time.

Read | Does India even need MS Dhoni anymore?

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar