Abruptness — yes, this is one word which perfectly describes the career of MS Dhoni, India’s most successful limited-overs captain till date.
In December 2004, out of nowhere he burst into the international arena from the mining state of Jharkhand, which was not known for its cricketing talents those days. Less than four months later, he was promoted to bat at No.3 and Dhoni came up with a swashbuckling 148* against Pakistan at Vizag. In 2007, bypassing the ‘seniors’ like Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag the Dilip Vengsarkar-led selection committee decided to hand over the captaincy to Dhoni for the inaugural edition of World T20 and rest is history.
Like his emergence, the final phase of Dhoni’s career has been full of unpredictabilities as well. Nobody expected him to retire from Test cricket in the middle of a tour, similarly Dhoni’s decision of giving up the ODI and T20I captaincy, just six months before the ICC Champion’s Trophy, has surprised the entire cricketing fraternity.
Referring to this unpredictable nature of Dhoni’s career, recently, cricket historian Abhishek Mukherjee wrote, “Had abruptness in decision-making been an Olympic sport, Dhoni would have got India two gold medals.”
But, this is MS Dhoni for you.
However, now the question is – what’s next for MSD?
Can Dhoni last till 2019 World Cup?
Following India’s elimination from ICC World T20 in 2016, the majority of Indian media wanted him to resign or even retire, but the local journalists did not have the guts to raise this issue in the post-match presser. It was an Aussie scribe Samuel Ferris, who managed to bell the cat and the Indian skipper gave him the due respect.
Dhoni calmly invited Ferris to the podium, asked him a couple of questions regarding his own fitness and ability and by doing this he made it absolutely crystal clear — he wants to play the next World Cup.
Well, irrespective of being captain or not, Dhoni will still walk into India’s ODI and T20I teams. He is still one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in the world in contemporary white ball cricket, if not the best. Maybe with bat in hand he has lost a bit of flare, especially as a finisher, but Dhoni is still an invaluable member of India’s limited-over’s set up. However, Dhoni, being Dhoni can force me to take back my words (of not being the best finisher anymore) by scoring something like a 60-ball ton to take India to victory in the next game.
Even a legend like Rahul Dravid, under whom Dhoni groomed as an international cricketer in his initial days, feels the Ranchi-boy still has a lot to offer to Indian cricket.
“There is no doubt that someone of MS Dhoni’s experience and ability when playing well, is invaluable to the side,” Dravid recently commented in the media. “That’s the kind of experience and knowledge and ability, under pressure especially. It is not easy to find and not easy to get.
“The question obviously remains that you need to earn your place in the team and you need to do it with performances. So at his best and performing really well, a guy like MS Dhoni is invaluable to India’s one-day team, especially in the big tournaments coming up.”
Talking about the ‘big tournaments’, India will play Champion’s Trophy, World T20 and the World Cup within next two and half years and having followed Dhoni’s career closely, I can see him featuring in all three tournaments, unless Dhoni himself believes he can not add value to the team anymore.
Meanwhile, Dravid believes, for the new skipper Virat Kohli and his team, a prolonged career of Dhoni will be immensely beneficial.
“And I guess if you’re Virat Kohli, you’ll actually be hoping that MS Dhoni does really well and is able to hold on to his place. Because you would like that kind of experience performing well in the team. Just that knowledge would be priceless for Virat Kohli to have,” he said.
Time to bat at No.5 regularly?
Being one of the most senior members of the current Indian team, many in Indian cricket fraternity believe, it is time for Dhoni to bat up the order – probably at number 4 or 5. Dhoni is one of the best batsmen in the team the more deliveries he will face, the more beneficial it will be for the team.
With Yuvraj Singh back in the ODI set-up the trio of Kohli, Yuvraj and Dhoni can form a strong middle order by batting at number 3, 4 and 5 respectively. In that case the youngsters like Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya can play the role finishers.
It might sound astounding, but despite having a glorious trophy cabinet as captain and batting averages of 38.09 in Tests, 50.89 in ODIs and 35.87 in T20Is, Dhoni is still one of the most scrutinised Indian cricketer ever, and the fact that from now on MSD will be judged by his own individual performance; not by the performance of his team — it can act as a double-edged sword for him. Any lean patch as a keeper or a batsman (which is quite normal for any international sportsperson) and the Indian media will be after his head.
So far, in his 12-year long international career, we have never seen Dhoni succumbing to the external pressure, such as media and as an Indian cricket enthusiast, I really want him to continue to do this.