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MS Dhoni MS Dhoni

It's all in Dhoni's hands

Jul 19, 2019

One can never be sure with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. What's running in his mind is anybody's guess. 

Whether he will continue to be available for India in the future, whether he will step down from one of the two formats and continue to play in the other format or whether he is in the position to pick and choose the series he wants to play so as to lessen the strain on his aging body is for anyone and everyone to speculate.

 For one of the greatest glovesmen in the history of the game despite not being a natural 'keeper and something that he has worked hard from a young age to become a master behind the wickets, what more is there for Dhoni to achieve? What is it that drives the 38-year-old World Cup-winning captain to don the Team India colours again and again when he has achieved almost everything that is there for a wicketkeeper to achieve?

 The passion to play for the country is an obvious answer. No disputing that. Everything else that comes along is a byproduct of that.

 But the thing to ponder over is: Does India need Dhoni or is now the right time to groom a young wicketkeeper in the highly-talented Rishabh Pant and give him ample opportunities?

 Many feel the just-concluded World Cup may have been an ideal time for Dhoni to call time to his glorious international career decorated with so many triumphs, the T20 World Cup title in only his first assignment as India captain and the ODI World Cup triumph besides being at the helm when India became No. 1 Test team being the most significant. A few others feel that he is required to groom a youngster in the side.

 Dhoni may not have lost anything when it comes to stumping batsmen out. But, as was seen in the World Cup and in the recent past, age is catching up with him, going by the misses he has had, which would otherwise have been a child play's play for a younger Dhoni.

 And certainly, Dhoni the batsman is not the one we have known and loved to remember. His inability to finish matches in recent times – the game against England on June 30 being a prime example where he was criticised for not showing the intent to take the match close, or not being able to see India cross the line against New Zealand in the semifinal – were painstaking to watch and unacceptable for a die-hard Dhoni fan.

 Alright, one cannot really fault Dhoni for not finishing off the match against New Zealand or question his inability to step up the scoring rate as the situation demanded India needing him to hold one end up while Ravindra Jadeja was doing all the hitting.

 But, against England, it seemed that Dhoni had given up on the chase, something that was atypical of him. And, Dhoni's struggle with the bat is increasingly becoming frequent than his free-stroking abilities of the past.

 Dhoni, undoubtedly one of the game's greatest finishers, has given his fans many beautiful memories of his batting. But, going by his inability to rotate the strike and up the scoring rate on a regular basis, the fans don't want to remember this image of Dhoni – one who is not his usual self with the bat but has slowed down.

 As has happened in the past, for being the legends of the game, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar were criticised for prolonging their international career by a year or two so that by the time they finished, the great all-rounder had a (then) world record number of Test wickets (434, beating New Zealand's Richard Hadlee's 431) and the genius batsman had a hundred international hundreds, the first and only cricketer to have so many.

 For all the joy Kapil and Tendulkar provided, for all their heroics across the globe, images of them struggling in their last stages were a painful sight and stay in memory.

 Now, Dhoni is in a similar position. One can rest assured that Dhoni is not one who plays for records. For if he did, he would not have stepped down from Tests when he still needed 10 for the 100-Test milestone.

 Dhoni has done everything that a wicketkeeper could do at the highest level, and in some ways even more. As a captain, as a batsman and above all, as a wicketkeeper.

 Any wicketkeeping record in each of the three formats will have Dhoni among the top, if not at the top-most. And, when you look at combined Test, ODI and T20I records, Dhoni is third for most career dismissals (829), third for most catches (634) and first for most stumpings (195). And, no captain has led in all the three formats combined more than Dhoni (332 matches).

 Dhoni himself was at the centre-stage when as captain and in building the Indian team for the future, he had to phase out senior players like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble from the limited-overs set up post the 2007 World Cup debacle. The result was India winning the 2011 World Cup.

 Now, will Dhoni himself be thinking along those lines – what if he is phased out of the Indian team set up to bring in a youngster? One doesn't like to see Dhoni being given the harsh treatment by the selectors.

 May better sense prevail and the right decision be made as far as one of India's precious gems' career is concerned.

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