Mahendra Singh Dhoni makes a catch to dismiss West Indies’ Chandrapaul Hemraj on Friday. The former skipper’s poor batting statistics of late has come under scrutiny. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Indian selectors have sent a message to a struggling Mahendra Singh Dhoni by dropping him from the T20 international squad for the three-match rubber against the West Indies and also the subsequent three T20 matches against Australia.

Dhoni, who led India to their only T20 World Cup triumph before following it up with a triumph in 50-overs format in 2011, was omitted following a string of not so impressive scores. The omission raises questions as to whether selectors no longer consider the 37 year old an automatic choice for the shortest format of the game.

With in-form wicketkeeper and batsman Rishab Pant performing impressively ever since his debut, it is now doubtful whether Dhoni will be considered.

Chief selector M.S.K. Prasad sought to play down the omission of Dhoni, who has a huge fan following in India, saying selectors had wanted to give Pant an opportunity.

However, if Dhoni still features in India’s team plans for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup next year, then this reasoning would be surprising.

What the selectors cannot hide are Dhoni’s batting statistics — since the turn of the year, he has scored only 245 runs from 17 matches, an average of 27.22. His last half century came almost a year back when he hit 65 against Sri Lanka in Dharmasala on December 10, 2017.

Dhoni’s inability to force the pace — in South Africa, England and also during the Asia Cup in Dubai — has been a topic of discussion and a source of concern. Though fans have repeatedly cheered him to the batting crease, his role as a finisher has not been seen of late.

“Dhoni is not going to play the six T20s because we are looking at second wicketkeeper,” Prasad said. “It will be between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik and they will get a chance.”

It is well-known that Indian skipper Virat Kohli consults Dhoni on the field but whether he can still afford to keep him on as he goes through a run drought just for this remains to be seen.

Though many are surprised by Dhoni’s dropping, it is inconceivable not think of the Ranji Trophy, which features a longer format of the game and whose season is currently at its peak.

The Ranji Trophy, part of the domestic cricketing scene, could have afforded Dhoni to chance to regain his form before the three-match One-day series against Australia. Unfortunately, Dhoni chose not to play in the Ranji Trophy after his retirement from Test cricket.

Dhoni’s remarkable consistency and fitness have always been talked about with awe but of late, he has proven that he too is human and that age is catching up with him.

It is now clear that his slot in the 2019 World Cup is uncertain and will depend a lot on his performance in the One-day series against Australia. What is certain now after the dropping of Dhoni is that for the World T20 in 2020, India will surely have a new wicketkeeper.