The 39-year-old former India captain hasn’t played an international match since India’s shock 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in July 2019. At first most people thought he just wanted to take a break, there were reports that he might be carrying a few injuries. He even hit the nets in Ranchi for some time, but then when he continued to make himself unavailable series after series, the questions began to swirl. Had he already decided to quit cricket? Was he going to announce his retirement? After all, Dhoni likes to do the unthinkable at times. He doesn’t really follow a set protocol. When he decided he didn’t want to continue playing Tests anymore, he took the decision during a Test series in Australia that he was captaining in 2014.
In January this year, the BCCI had to drop him from their list of centrally contracted players, after all he hadn’t played for the country in almost six months at that time.
Former Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad had said that Dhoni will have to prove himself on the field to make it back to the Indian team. Head coach Ravi Shastri was quoted as saying that Dhoni could be back in the team for the T20 World Cup in Australia (this was much before the World Cup was postponed), if he did well in the IPL. Once Dhoni reached Chennai to join the Super Kings’ camp, this became the unwritten, yet accepted rule for most fans – If Dhoni does well in the IPL, he will be back in the Indian team. But then, the world was hit by the Coronavirus storm and all plans were put on hold.
Now, with the ICC officially postponing the 2020 edition of the T20 World Cup, it’s no secret that the window will be used to host the IPL in the UAE.
Dhoni will of course be seen in the yellow of the Chennai Super Kings come IPL time, but will we see him in the India blue again? Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones who has worked with Indian TV channels, including the host broadcaster for the IPL feels the break that Dhoni has had might actually work in favour of the immensely successful and popular former India captain.
“At the moment it looks like the Indian selectors are going with Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul. If Dhoni has a wonderful IPL then he’s away, but if he doesn’t do well in the next IPL then perhaps his door is definitely shut. But, he’s left the door open. This break might be fantastic for him. He has had a really good break and if he wants to come back out of this – trust me as you get older it gets more difficult to come back from a break.” Jones told TimesofIndia.com.
One school of thought is that the next generation should be given the confidence that they will not be dropped when a senior player is back. In that context, will Dhoni walk right back into the limited overs teams if he has a good outing in the IPL? Jones feels there is still one crucial area in the Indian squad that hasn’t yet been cemented – that of a finisher, a role that MSD has played for years.
“He (MS Dhoni) is an absolute superstar. He is a ‘great’. So, I have always felt, with the greats, to tend to let them do what they want to do, but at the moment they are leaning towards KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant. But, India’ biggest problem is still a finisher. Who is your finisher? Hardik Pandya – yes. Just comes down to your balance – who’s hot and who’s not.” Jones, who scored over 9000 international runs with 11 Test and 7 ODI centuries told TimesofIndia.com
Jones had told TimesofIndia.com in April this year that he was “worried” about the T20 World Cup in Australia. On July 20 the ICC officially made the announcement that the tournament was being postponed and will not be held this year due to the worldwide outbreak of the Coronavirus.
This essentially means that Dhoni will not have the opportunity to make an international comeback to play the World Cup this year.
India’s tour of Australia is also scheduled to have limited overs series, along with the 4 Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but the final scheduling details are still being worked out and the original schedule might have to be tweaked, especially taking into account the 14 day mandatory quarantine policy. But will Dhoni make the cut for the limited overs series Down Under once the final schedule is decided? Will he make himself available in the first place? How big an impact will his IPL form have on his selection? There are still more questions than answers.