It’s been more than six whole months since Mahendra Singh Dhoni last played competitive cricket. Since India’s World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand on July 9 last year, he has been away from the game almost entirely.
The 38-year-old had retired from Tests in 2014 but hasn’t officially pulled down the curtains on his One-Day International and T20I career yet. Despite being away from the game for these many months, there is no real certainty as far his future with the Indian team is concerned.
Be it the captain of the Indian team, the coach, the selectors, or the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, not a single person has spoken with certainty about Dhoni’s future.
Should Dhoni still be considered for T20 World Cup based on IPL?
Last week, Ravi Shastri said that the former India captain may want to continue playing T20 cricket for a little more.
“At his age, probably the only format he’ll want to play is T20 cricket which means he’ll have to start playing again, get back into the groove because he’s going to play in the IPL and see how his body reacts,” said the Team India coach. “One thing I know about Dhoni is that he will not impose himself on the team. But if he has a cracking IPL, well, then...”
Shastri’s statement suggests that Dhoni will be in the running for a spot in the Indian team for the T20 World Cup if he manages to do well in the Indian Premier League. This, despite Dhoni having possibly played no competitive cricket for over eight months prior to the start of IPL 2020.
The Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – India’s two premier limited-overs tournaments – are done and dusted for the season, and Dhoni didn’t take part in either of them. The Vijay Hazare Trophy was played from September 24, 2019, to October 25, 2019, and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy ran from November 8, 2019, till December 1, 2019.
Both these tournaments happened well after the end of India’s campaign at the ICC World Cup in England, yet Dhoni chose not to participate in either of them. The only domestic tournament that is left till IPL 2020 starts is the Ranji Trophy, and Dhoni hasn’t featured in it in many, many years now.
This leaves the question – should Dhoni be considered for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year?
Sharing his views on this all-important question, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar recently made a pertinent point when he said: “The question that needs to be asked is of MSD himself. He has not made himself available to play for India since the tenth of July last year. That is the important question. Does anybody keep himself away from playing for this long? That is the question and therein lies the answer.”
Of course, the argument that goes in Dhoni’s favour is that his immense experience will be invaluable to the Indian team at the World Cup. Skipper Virat Kohli, too, has often spoken about how he benefits from having ‘Captain Cool’ behind the stumps.
However, as Gavaskar suggested, is it okay for Dhoni to walk back into the Indian team despite being away from the game for so long. If he is included in the World Cup squad just on the basis of his IPL showing, what sort of a precedent does that set?
A couple of weeks ago, BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly had offered an intriguing take on this matter: “It’s his decision what he wants to do. You won’t get another Dhoni very, very soon, but what he does – whether he wants to play, whether he doesn’t want to play, is up to him.”
There’s no denying Dhoni’s contribution to Indian cricket and the massive legacy he will leave behind once he bids adieu, but it’s fair to say that the decision to take him to the World Cup based on his performance in the IPL (where the competition isn’t nearly as tough as it is in an ICC event) will be a questionable one.
So, what do you think? Should Dhoni be considered for India’s squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia just on the back of a good IPL season? Or will that be unfair?
Weigh in on the debate with your opinion in the comments section.