Everyone was awaiting the BCCI announcement for the Indian squad for the Windies T20I series, but what BCCI gave everyone was a bumper announcement with teams for T20I series against both Windies and Australia being announced.
And one of the biggest surprises was that the former India captain MS Dhoni was dropped from the T20I teams to face both Windies and Australia. Dhoni has featured in 93 of the 104 T20Is that India have played since his debut in December 2006. Dropping a stalwart like MS Dhoni has given signals that his career in the shortest format of the international cricket might be over.
MS Dhoni has been a stalwart, a legend and a leader for the Indian cricket team in the last 15 years or so. Starting off as an iron-hands wicketkeeper and a big-hitting batsman, Dhoni captured the imagination of everyone with his long hair and a big smile during his primitive years in international cricket.
The start of the MS Dhoni we know today came when he was entrusted with the leadership of Indian team for the 2007 World T20, which he won and then handing him the ODI leadership after Rahul Dravid stood down. He became the full-time India captain in 2008, after Anil Kumble’s retirement and since then till 2016, he led India credibly, filling the coffers with all the three ICC trophies with the World Cup in 2011 and Champions Trophy in 2013.
As time went on, everyone faces a decline and MS Dhoni’s batting prowess has declined significantly since he has given up captaincy. It was highly evident in the series against England, Sri Lanka and most recently, the Asia Cup 2018.
However, the biggest impact of this was seen in the T20I format, where his inability to hit big sixes from the word go and his recent penchant for the accumulation of runs has put Indian team under significant burden in death overs.
Though MS Dhoni had a significantly boisterous IPL 2018 where he scored 455 runs at a strike-rate of 150 for Chennai Super Kings in their title-winning run; it seems more like a flash in a pan sort of thing. He has significantly become an accumulator of runs rather than hitting the balls out of the ground and that has become a headache for the Indian team that is looking for a big hitter down the order.
His decline in hitting prowess also led the Indian fans booing him at the home of cricket, Lord's during one of the ODIs against England.
Now with him being sidelined for a significantly important T20I series against the likes of Australia, the selectors have given a clear signal that they are moving forward with the team keeping the 2020 World T20 in the mind.
"The T20Is here and in Australia, he [Dhoni] is not going to play, because we are also looking at a second wicketkeeper," Prasad said at a press conference on Friday.
MS Dhoni’s place in the Indian team for the 2019 World Cup is certain, but with the next World T20 in 2020, he is certainly not in the plans of the Indian selectors and that is perhaps the right way to go, as the 2019 World Cup might be the last hurrah for the most successful captain in Indian cricket history, as he will be 38-years-old during the tournament, looking for a glorious exit from the game, that has given him everything.
Dhoni has shown he is all too human and has forced the selectors to make the call. Now the question remains that given he is not in the best of the form with the bat and the only chances he will get to play himself back into the form will be for Jharkhand in the domestic cricket.
All this is related to the decline in the batting of MS Dhoni and has nothing to do with his skills behind the stumps, as he has been excellent with the gloves whenever he has played and his inputs to the bowlers and captains (Virat and Rohit) have only been beneficial to the team.
But we have seen that Dhoni has had the knack of timing his departures well, like giving up the captaincy in limited overs cricket and his retirement from the Test arena; and this could well be another well-timed decision of his to distance himself from the shortest format of the international arena, to give time to selectors to build a team for the 2020 World T20 in Australia.