Clock ticking on M.S. Dhoni, with World Cup in sight

It has emerged that the selectors and a member of the team management had a discussion with the veteran cricketer about his future as a T20 international.

Dhoni's ability to guide Kohli, the captain, could come in handy during India's World Cup campaign.   -  prashant nakwe

Minutes after excluding M.S. Dhoni from India’s Twenty20 squad on Friday night, chief selector M.S.K. Prasad denied that it was curtains for the wicketkeeper-batsman’s T20I career.

However, it has emerged that it would be a huge surprise if the man synonymous with the T20 revolution in the country features in India’s blues in the shortest form of the game again.

Dhoni consulted

Sportstar understands that even before BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary convened the selection meeting here, the selectors and a member of the team management had a discussion with the veteran cricketer about his future as a T20 international. Having retired from Test cricket almost four years ago, Dhoni had been playing both the shorter formats.

But with the next World Twenty20 scheduled in Australia in the second half of 2020, the team management feels it’s time to try out younger ’keepers in the 11 T20Is – three each versus Windies and Australia, three in New Zealand in January and two versus Australia at home in March next year – before the Indian Premier League.

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“The T20Is here and in Australia, he [Dhoni] is not going to play, because we are also looking at a second wicketkeeper,” Prasad said on Friday. “That will be between Rishabh [Pant] and Dinesh Karthik, so they will be getting a chance to keep and bat.”

It effectively means that the selectors and the management are looking at the six games in less than a month as the starting point for the World T20 preparation. From that perspective, it makes sense for Dhoni to make way for the next in line.

One possible problem with Dhoni being limited to one-day cricket is the scarcity of international game-days ahead of the next year’s World Cup. After the ongoing Windies series, India is scheduled to play a dozen ODIs ahead of the World Cup in June. Considering the lull Dhoni has been having with the bat for almost a year now, will such limited match-time be enough for him to turn the tide?

WC spot not in doubt

For now, though, Dhoni looks a near-certainty for the 2019 World Cup, something he had admitted he was eyeing while handing over the reins of the limited-overs teams to Virat Kohli in 2016. Despite his patchy form with the bat, Dhoni has been remarkable behind the wickets.

More importantly, Dhoni’s ability to guide Kohli the captain could come in handy during India’s World Cup campaign. Over the last two years, it has been witnessed that Kohli lets Dhoni run the show when India is fielding. Not only does it bring the best out of Dhoni’s field awareness but it also lets the athletic Kohli guard the fence more often.

Dhoni’s World Cup participation may not be under threat, but Friday’s selection meeting is a firm indication that it’s the beginning of the end of the Dhoni era.