Mahendra Singh Dhoni made a name for himself, initially as a swashbuckling and exhilarating batsman capable of pulling off the most unexpected finishes and later on as a captain who led from the front and never dreamt of hogging the limelight.
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He is famous for maintaining a calm and cool composure even during the trickiest situations, ones which would have triggered any ordinary cricketer to panic. These qualities were utilized by him to lead India to three ICC trophies- the 2007 T20 WC, the 2011 EC and the 2013 Champions Trophy. This has cemented him as one of the India’s most prolific and successful captains of all time.
It was the 2nd of April 2011, when MS Dhoni's last ball six gave us all something we had been hoping, wishing and praying for since ‘83. No Indian can forget how on that night the hard-hitting finisher rose to the occasion and brought home the WC after a long and tedious 28-year long drought. But seven years later, things have started to change. Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for MSD, a name that has become synonymous with cricket in India?
In the ODI series against West Indies, he played a knock wherein he scored fifty in 108 balls, the slowest for any Indian since 2001. This has resulted in him receiving flak from all across the country as fans and critics fear that we are nearing the end of Dhoni’s illustrious career. The finisher, they say, is finished. The Jharkhand hero’s game has shown inconsistency in recent times, and his finishing ability has also been unreliable.
Dhoni has played 93 T20s, through which he has scored 1,487 runs with only two half-centuries to his name and a highest score of 56. While he has a strike rate of 127.09 and an average of 37.17, his performance in recent years has been inconsistent.
Though Dhoni is still the best wicket-keeper in the world, with lightning quick reflexes that fill us with awe and wonder, his batting has taken a back foot off late. He is also the fittest guy in the team, sans Kohli, and his on-field advice is nothing short of invaluable. However, his failures with the bat cannot be ignored any more. The past one year has seen some of the most excellent performances from India’s top order, and this has helped mask his waning batting performances, but as his exclusion from the T20 side proves, people have been taking notice.
He has lately been taking a lot of time to get settled and also seems unsure how to play spinners; something he never had an issue with earlier. His ability to rotate strike has also come under fire, and all this seems to be putting pressure on Captain Cool. All of this led to his exclusion from the T20 side for the tour to Australia and West Indies. The selectors felt that his future in the T20 team is something that requires debate and with the WC coming up in 2020, they think it is time to give a chance to the young guns to prove their mettle. Ample time has to be provided for grooming the likes of Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan.
"In T20s, MS Dhoni's role is at No. 4. He requires more time to get his eye in and then do the job. I still feel it's time for MS Dhoni to give youngsters a chance in the T20 format. It will be an opportunity for a youngster to blossom and get confidence playing international cricket”, said VVS Laxman.
Over the years he has curbed his attacking instincts a lot, and this has reached a stage where it is now hampering his game. The MSK Prasad-led selection panel wants to give Dinesh Kartik and Rishabh Pant a chance as they feel they deserve it as both of them provide alternate keeper options as well.
Rishabh Pant has proven himself time and time again and is quickly improving to become a dangerous power-hitter. With the right guidance, he can contribute to the team and also help solve the middle order problem that now hounds us. Pant’s explosive game style suits the format perfectly while his maturity and ambition will ensure that the young man puts in the required effort to get to where he wants to go.
MSD, on the other hand, has played seven T20 Internationals with an unbeaten 52 off 28 balls against South Africa being the highlight. If that inning is taken out, Dhoni has scored 71 runs off 51 balls in the remaining six matches, a rather mediocre effort to say the least. The impending WC seems to be his swansong if he does not improve his statistics soon. Once the West Indies series gets over, Dhoni will not even get to play domestic 50-over matches as both the Deodhar and Vijay Hazare Trophy draws to a close by then.
Source- Indian Express
None can entirely forget the stunning manner in which he retired from Test career -- in the middle of a series, through a short BCCI press release. To understand the gravity of the situation let us get one thing straight- MSD has never been dropped from any squad, ever. Since 2009, he has been the one constant thing in the Indian cricket team. Even in 2014, when he retired from Test cricket, it was on his terms and not due to pressure from the BCCI.
Hence, we might just be witnessing the end of an era. Will he rise again from his ashes, as he has done, time and time again, in the past or has the helicopter landed for a fact? He has led the team from the front for the past nine years as his presence has helped rejuvenate and reenergize Indian cricket in a way few people have been able to in their lifetime. The former captain has a monumental body of work to speak for him. The man has nothing left to prove because he has already done everything that others couldn’t. He would walk away from the sport, fondly remembered as India’s most successful and respected captain. But if there’s one thing he has taught us, it is to have faith in him because when the going gets tough, that’s when MSD joins the party.
India’s most talismanic limited overs cricketer just might have more up his sleeves.
By Athulya Mohandas