Selectors map Dhoni future
The Indian selectors are preparing for life after Mahendra Singh Dhoni and, unless they have a last-minute change of mind, have decided not to consider him for the three T20Is against South Africa at home, beginning September 15. The squad is likely to be picked on September 4. Rishabh Pant is the automatic choice in the limited-overs format despite his indifferent form in the West Indies. An unbeaten 65 in the final T20I of the three-match series has been his best on this tour. In the ODIs, he managed just 20 in the two innings he batted.
The selectors obviously have their eyes firmly set on the future and the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. In case Pant fails to live up to expectations, Andhra’s K.S. Bharat, who has been spoken of highly by chief selector MSK Prasad, or Jharkhand’s Ishan Kishan may get a look-in. Sanju Samson is also an option but his wicketkeeping is considered below average.
But one thing is almost certain: Dhoni is not in the selectors’ plans for the T20Is. India will be playing three T20Is each against South Africa, Bangladesh and the West Indies at home this season. Besides, there will also be three ODIs each against the West Indies, Australia and South Africa during the same period.
Dhoni, who took a break to serve his regiment in the Territorial Army, hasn’t informed the Board about his availability or plans. The former India captain was last seen in public view during his visit to Jaipur last week.
While the door appears shut on Dhoni in the game’s shortest format, he could still be considered for the one-dayers when the West Indies tour India in December.
There is also a strong buzz that Dhoni might decide to call it a day once the tour of West Indies ends and before the home series against South Africa gets underway.
“Dhoni is not going to let anyone know of his plans. Even his teammates didn’t get a hint once he decided to retire after the third Test in Melbourne in 2014. He always prefers to play the game on his own terms,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.
Another school of thought has it that the chief selector or the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators could speak to him and offer a farewell series during the home calendar. The team management, which includes captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, and Dhoni are on excellent terms and everyone would be keen to give the 2011 World Cup-winning captain a fitting farewell.
Dhoni last played for India during the World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in Manchester. India failed to chase down a 240-run target and lost by 18 runs. Coming in at No. 7, a decision which was largely seen as the reason behind batting coach Sanjay Bangar’s ouster, Dhoni was run out for 50.
Dhoni hasn’t played any cricket since and many feel that he should play in the domestic circuit if he decides to continue at the international level.
However, with Dhoni being seen as a bit of an enigma, no one is willing to stick one’s neck out and shed light on his plans.