The Board of Control for Cricket in India chief selector MSK Prasad said that former captain MS Dhoni’s erratic form with the bat had worried him but insisted that he was, at no point, dropped from the limited-overs setup, ESPNCricinfo reported.
There has been a lot of talk about the 37-year-old seen as the big-hitting behemoth he was during his younger days. Whether Dhoni should play in the World Cup in June has also been a cause for much debate. However, he bounced back to form, leading India to a One-day International series win in Australia with consecutive match-winning displays but the runs dried up in New Zealand.
“With regards to his batting, we were a bit worried about his form,” Prasad said. “But we also knew that if he played more, he would regain his form, and that is part of the any player’s career – there are dips in form and performances.”
“As [captain] Virat [Kohli] said, and I agree, the expectations on Mahi [Dhoni] are so high. We always associate Mahi with that brutal batsman of his younger days. And the moment he does not do that, some people feel his reflexes have declined.
“But the way he has prepared and the way he has played in the recent series, I am very happy. Players of that legendary stature don’t need to be told. They know what is expected of them. They will obviously feel bad in case they do not deliver what is expected of them.”
Last year, Dhoni featured only sporadically in the limited-overs setup, leading to speculation that he had fallen out of favour with the selectors and the team management. Prasad denied such talk.
“He definitely was not dropped. I personally spoke to Dhoni and the team management,” he said. “I told them we needed to identify the second wicket-keeper for the World Cup. So we wanted to give some game time to both [Dinesh] Karthik and Rishabh [Pant], and that is why they played those six T20Is.
The former India opener added: “The way Mahi has played in the last couple of series, in Australia and New Zealand, the message is very, very clear: now he has decided to play his natural way. This is the Dhoni that we know. We will be very happy if he can replicate those fearless knocks, using that brutal force he has within him. At some point, perhaps because of shortage of match time, he might have been short of runs. But now that he is playing continuously, you can see his touch once again.”
Recently, Ambati Rayudu, all-rounder Vijay Shankar and Pant have performed well at the top of the order but Prasad says the troublesome no 4 spot is still up for grabs. India have five matches – ODI home series against Australia – to make up their mind.
“Maybe one spot might go to the last minute, otherwise we are very clear about the rest,” Prasad said about the side that India would put out during the World Cup.
“The reason behind that one-odd spot still being open is due to the new dimension that has come up after the performance of some of the players in Australia and New Zealand. That is the reason we are saying that maybe one spot needs to be sealed. We might do that after the upcoming home series against Australia.”
Kuldeep vs Ashwin
Recently, coach Ravi Shastri stated that wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav will be India’s go-to bowler in Tests. Ravichandran Ashwin, the owner of 65 Tests and 342 wickets, remains on the fringes. Prasad hit back following Shastri’s comments, insisting that Ashwin is India’s no 1 Test spinner.
Prasad said: “Whenever Kuldeep has been given the opportunity in Tests, he has done well. He adds a lot of variety to our bowling attack. Having said, that he is still a player in the making. I agree with what Ravi said – that he is going to be part of the scheme of things both home and away, but we have to see how he progresses because he is playing in all three formats, so we need to be careful.”
Prasad once again announced that Ashwin’s place in white flannels is not in doubt. “There is no doubt that he [Ashwin] is still our no 1 spinner.
“Having said that, whenever Jadeja and Kuldeep have been given the opportunity, they have delivered. But that cannot take away credit from what Ashwin is – he is very much an important part of the Indian Test team, be it home or away. That is because of his sheer class. I feel he remains the key. Just like we have a good bench strength in fast bowling group, we now have a solid trio of spinners.”