MS Dhoni, on Thursday, was left out of BCCI's central contract list for 2019-20. As soon as the BCCI put out the list, social media went into a frenzy.
The former India captain hasn't played in national colours since the World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in July 2019. So what does no contract mean? Well, the first question that arises out of those questions is...Is this the end of Dhoni? Speculations have been going on for months now. There was little doubt that Dhoni's prowess were on the wane and for some it was about time. Some thought he might announce retirement after the 2019 World Cup. But that didn't happen. Dhoni made himself unavailable series after series. Which in turn raised more questions. What's in his mind? What does BCCI do in this regard? Should he be given a clear message?
Well, the fact that he is left out of the contract should not come as a surprise. First of all, he had not played for six months. Secondly, in October last year, chief selector MSK Prasad provided a strong indication that they are looking beyond Dhoni and have "already laid the roadmap for the future."
"I made it very clear post the World Cup that we are moving on," Prasad said while announcing India's squads for home series against Bangladesh. "We are giving opportunities to youngsters and see that they establish themselves in the side. With Rishabh Pant doing so well and even Sanju Samson coming into the side (as back-up wicketkeeper), I am sure you must be understanding our thought process."
He also said that Dhoni himself endorsed the policy of backing the youngsters.
"We're looking at younger options after the World Cup, so you can understand our thought process. We definitely had a chat with Dhoni and he also endorses our view of backing youngsters," Prasad had said.
Even Ravi Shastri had said that Dhoni might end his ODI career soon.
"I have had a conversation with MS and that is between us. He has finished his Test career, he may soon end his ODI career... In all probability, he will finish one-day cricket," Shastri told CNN News18.
"People must respect that he's played non-stop in all formats of the game for a while.
"At his age, probably the only format he'll want to play is T20 cricket which means he'll have to start playing again, get back into the groove because he's going to play in the IPL and see how his body reacts."
After being dropped from the central contract, it indeed seems like Dhoni's days in international cricket are numbered. Retirement may surely be in his mind but does his silence mean that he is looking for one last hurrah at the T20 World Cup? Even Shastri suggested that he might retire from the ODIs but he didn't give any hints about the shortest format.
If Dhoni is indeed looking at playing the T20 World Cup, then what's the gateway to getting into the side that is looking to back youngsters. There's Rishabh Pant who has been backed by the selectors and team management. There's Sanju Samson, who's continuously knocking on the selectors' door. So how does Dhoni fit into the scheme of things for the T20 World Cup? Well, the answer is...The Indian Premier League. A good IPL could well be the gateway to the T20 World Cup team. Shastri had suggested earlier that Dhoni could still be a contender for the mega event set to take place later this year and also hinted that his experience is the master key that could unlock the door for selection if Pant, Samson and Dhoni's performances are on par in the league.
"So he will be left with T20, he will definitely play the IPL," Shastri had told CNN News18. One thing I know about Dhoni is that he will not impose himself on the team. But if he has a cracking IPL, well, then..."
"We will have to consider the person's experience and form. They will bat in the number 5-6 position. If Dhoni plays well in the IPL then he does put himself in contention."
Being dropped from the central contract list has added one more question to the myriad others that have popped out in the last six months. But knowing the enigma that is Dhoni, it won't be a surprise if he ends up dominating in the IPL and walks out in national colours in Australia for...one last time. Or maybe not!
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