The MS Dhoni conundrum

There is something about Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Whatever he does, however he does and whenever he does, he is always in the spotlight. But that’s the thing about being a superstar or rather a cricket great in a country like India. You are given Godly status at one moment and ridiculed like never before on another.

From the time the Indian squads for the T20I series against West Indies and Australia have been announced, the exclusion of MS Dhoni has created a massive buzz around the world. He is one of the greatest limited-overs players India has ever produced. However, greatness never comes without scrutiny, doubt and criticism.

This scrutiny and criticism seem to be on another level. When the Indian selectors decided to leave MS Dhoni out of the T20 squads, they said that they wanted to give the likes of Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik more opportunities. They want to look at a second wicket-keeper was what chief selector MSK Prasad said.

So, was MS Dhoni dropped or as the selectors often use the word ‘rested’? Well, that question might seem a mystery but it’s not too difficult to find answers to it. Everyone knows that the former Indian skipper doesn’t play Test cricket and he doesn’t play too much cricket outside international cricket as well. So, dropped or rested? You take a call.

However, there are a few questions that surround MS Dhoni all the time. Should he retire? Does he still deserve to be in the Indian team? Would MS Dhoni, the captain would’ve dropped the current MS Dhoni, the player?

The former India skipper has had the worst calendar year of his career in ODI cricket. You consider it in terms of runs, average or strike-rate, 2018 has been the worst year (barring his first year where he played just 3 ODIs) in ODI cricket for Dhoni.

In 2018, the 37-year-old wicket-keeper from Ranchi has managed just 275 runs at an average of 25.00 and a strike-rate of 71.83. While this is the third time (including Dhoni’s first year), Dhoni has averaged under 40 in a calendar year in ODIs, his strike-rate of 71.83 is his lowest in a calendar year. Barring 2004, this is the first calendar year where he has failed to cross 50 even once in ODI cricket.

However, he hasn’t had that bad a year in T20s. In T20Is, he has scored 123 runs (in five innings) at an average of 41.00 and a strike-rate of 155.70. He had an excellent IPL as well where he amassed 455 runs at an average of 75.83 and a strike-rate of 150.66. He struck 30 sixes in the 15 innings as he turned the clock back and revived some of the old memories.

However, there’s been a big slump in the Ranchi star’s form. He struggled to get going in England and in the Asia Cup (in the UAE). He did give an indication in the recent series against Windies, he might be returning to his fluent best but either he failed to build on the starts he got or he didn’t get to bat.

The year 2018 is over for MS Dhoni. He will not feature in another international game this year as he has been excluded from the T20 squads. Out of the 104 T20Is India have played in the history of T20 cricket, Dhoni has featured in 93 of them. In fact, he never missed a single T20I in India. However, he’s missed one now and the biggest talking points in recent times has been, is this the end of his T20I career? Let that debate be for another day.

There have been calls for his exclusion from the ODI side as well. However, India might need the experience of Dhoni in the mega-event. There is absolutely no substitute for experience. He knows how and what to do when. For now, he will most likely stay till the 2019 World Cup. The former skipper is going to be a very integral part of the 2019 World Cup for the ‘Men in Blue’.

There are very few who can read the game, the conditions and the pitch as well as Dhoni can. He is master of the DRS and has been a massive help for the bowlers (spinners, in particular). He can take over the control of the side when Kohli is fielding at the boundary.

Yes, he has struggled in 2018 but don’t count him out just yet. The man knows when to go and he will be the first person to know. While he wont don the Indian jersey until January 2019 ( ODI series vs Australia) he knows that he needs to bring his ‘A’ game in the next calendar year for India and bow out on a high.