The recent controversy that flared up when chief selector MSK Prasad told the media that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be playing for Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinal against Maharashtra, only to be contradicted by the latter, was indicative of the lack of communication between the selectors and the players.
Earlier, Murali Vijay and Karun Nair too had done the same, telling the media that they had been kept in the dark over their omissions from the Test team, but these claims were vehemently repudiated by Prasad that time too. In this instance, Jharkhand coach Ravi Kumar stated that Dhoni did not want to upset the team’s balance at this crucial juncture and therefore, would not play the quarterfinal.
The question, however, is that if Dhoni was asked by the selectors to get some game time before the One-Day series against the West Indies began, then he should have done the same. The selectors were probably right in doing so, given that he has struggled with the bat in recent times, both in England and in the United Arab Emirates in the Asia Cup.
The last time he notched up a fifty in a One-Day Internationals was back in December 2017 and this is a worrying statistic indeed. Has Dhoni lost the nimbleness of the feet and is the hand-eye coordination no longer the same? The selectors made a wise decision by picking Rishab Pant as the second wicketkeeper for the series against the West Indies, which also sent out a clear message to Dhoni that he is not indispensable to the team anymore.
This series may well be the chance he has been looking for to stake his claim to the World Cup team; the selectors, however, know that if he fails to do so they have options in hand. Dinesh Karthik can always be recalled. This is not to say that Dhoni is not valuable to the team anymore. His wicketkeeping has been brilliant and he has many a time lent his hand when the team needs a wise head. It is his batting, however, that has been worrying his fans and critics alike.
It is like he has lost that silken touch and can no longer hit the ball as far as he used to earlier. It is normal, perhaps common, but accepting a fallacy of a demi-god is very difficult. Has he overstayed his time at the crease?
The series against the West Indies will give us a clear picture as to where Mahendra Singh Dhoni stands in the selectors’ plans for the World Cup. If he has a good, even a more than average series with the bat, then he will make the trip to England.
If he, however, continues to struggle and fails to hit the ball off the square as he did in parts of the Asia Cup, then perhaps the selectors will not be wrong in looking elsewhere. It will be difficult to replace him, as it always is with the greats, but if it is not done, then India will just be carrying extra baggage to England.
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