Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Saturday made himself “unavailable” for the tour of West Indies, a day before the selectors meet in Mumbai to pick the squads for the upcoming series.
Amid mounting speculation around his international retirement after India’s semi-final exit from the World Cup, the former captain has told the BCCI that he will take a two-month sabbatical from the game to serve his paramilitary regiment.
The 38-year-old Dhoni is an honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army.
“Dhoni is taking a two-month sabbatical to serve his paramilitary regiment which he had committed much earlier... This has got nothing to do with retirement. Dhoni felt that it was important to take a break and come back afresh… We have intimated his decision to skipper Virat Kohli and chairman of selectors MSK Prasad,” a BCCI source said.
India will play three T20 Internationals and three ODIs and two Tests in the tour starting August 3.
It is likely that the selectors will rest Virat for the limited overs leg of the tour with vice-captain Rohit Sharma taking over the leadership duties.
With Dhoni pulling out of the tour, Rishabh Pant is expected to be first wicketkeeper in the limited overs formats.
A fit-again Wriddhiman Saha will challenge Pant in Test matches. The Bengal wicketkeeper has not played a first-class game since the Cape Town Test in January 2018, and his absence has coincided with Pant’s rise in overseas Tests.
From now, the focus will be more on T20 cricket keeping the World T20 in mind, which is scheduled to be held in Australia next year.
India will be playing a lot of bilateral three-match T20I series in the run-up to the global event.
With Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar still not fit for the tour, a fresh set of players is likely to enter the race, including current India A captain Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill.
Pandey has been among runs against West Indies A which included an 87-ball hundred in North Sound that fashioned a series-clinching 148-run victory for India A.