LONDON: He may have kept everyone guessing whether he’s going to announce his retirement, but there’s a strong indication that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s days as an India player may be over.
There is a feeling amongst those who matter in Indian cricket that the 38-year-old must now make way for others. Dhoni’s batting down the order at the World Cup triggered heated debate, particularly his unbeaten 42 off 31 balls against England at Edgbaston, where he seemed to have abandoned the chase well before the end and only hit out in the last over, when the match was already lost.
According to reliable sources, chief selector MSK Prasad will speak to Dhoni soon, if he hasn’t has already spoken to Dhoni, and convey to the legend that his time to exit may have come.
“We’re surprised that he’s not done it so far. There are youngsters like Rishabh Pant waiting to grab their chances. As we saw in the World Cup, Dhoni isn’t the same batsman anymore. Despite coming in at No. 6 or 7, he was struggling to force the pace, and it was hurting the team,” said a well-placed source in the board.
He ruled out Dhoni’s selection for India’s forthcoming tour of the West Indies. “I don’t think he’s in the selectors’ plan for the 2020 T20 World Cup too. He must quit international cricket gracefully. He isn’t an automatic pick any more,” said the source.
Interestingly, there was no communication between Dhoni and the other decision-makers in Indian cricket about whether he would indeed retire post the World Cup. “We didn’t want to distract him, and he too must have wanted the team, and himself, to be focused on the Cup. But the time to take a call is now. He has nothing left to achieve or prove in international cricket anymore,” he said.
“I’m certain that Dhoni is not going to be picked for India again. It’s high time he calls it a day,” a prominent former India cricketer, well-versed with how things work in Indian cricket, told TOI. “In fact, I think even Virat Kohli’s captaincy could be reviewed. This campaign wasn’t successful by any standards. Accountability has to start from the top,” he added.
For now, it could begin and end with Dhoni. In a glittering, epic international career, Dhoni has scored 10,773 runs in 350 [email protected], and 1617 runs in 98 [email protected] If you trust the word coming out from the board, these could be his final numbers.
On Friday, former Australia captain Steve Waugh had made a bold statement on the Dhoni issue, saying that his country believes in phasing out the seniors at the right time, unlike the sub-continent, where it becomes difficult to move on once players attain legendary status.
“It’s interesting. Australia definitely do that. It doesn’t matter who you are because you have got to move on,” Waugh had said, when asked about Cricket Australia’s retirement policy and his own exit from international scene in early 2004.
“May be in the sub-continent you get a bit more leeway with 1.4 billion people following you. People no longer remain people. They become legends, gods. It’s very hard to move on,” he had said.
Selection date still not clear
Meanwhile, the date for selection of the India team for the West Indies tour in July-August is still not clear as some players are still stuck in Manchester due to the unavailability of return tickets. The tour includes three T20 Internationals and ODIs, followed by a couple of Tests.