Dubai: India’s young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant celebrated Christmas with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, former captain and his mentor, in Dubai — giving rise to speculation about the meeting of the two here.
Dhoni had been holidaying in Dubai while his fans in India were rejoicing his completion of 15 years in international cricket.
Pant, on meeting Dhoni here, posted a group photo with Dhoni next to him on his Instagram account — wishing his followers Merry Christmas.
Dhoni last played for India in the semi-final of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup against New Zealand in July when he got run out after scoring 50 runs.
He has been on sabbatical since the World Cup and it’s understood that he may announce his decision as to whether to continue playing for India in January.
Pant’s decision to fly into Dubai has evoked speculation as to whether Dhoni is mentoring his successor here away from the prying eyes of Indian media.
Though Dhoni has his cricket academy here, he hadn’t visited the academy with Pant till Thursday.
In the recent series against West Indies, 22-year-old Pant had come in for heavy criticism for his wicketkeeping and whenever he dropped catches or missed stumping, the crowd have called out Dhoni’s name, wanting their hero to don the wicketkeeping gloves again.
During the T20 International match in Thiruvananthapuram, the spectators’ Dhoni chant had irked Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who commented after the match: “If he (Pant) misses a chance or something, people can’t shout ‘MS!’ in the stadium. It’s not respectful.”
The speculation as to whether Dhoni may take up the role of a mentor too has come to fore after India’s chief selector MSK Prasad, during Sunday’s press conference, remarked that Pant is being groomed with an eye for 2020 ICC World T20. He had also remarked that “Pant needs to improve his keeping skills. We will have him work under a specialist wicketkeeping coach.”
The buzz is that the BCCI wants Dhoni not to retire but play the role of a mentor for Pant to give him the confidence.
Even Indian team management reportedly feels that Dhoni’s guidance, as well as his presence, is needed for some more time.
Soon after the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni went for training with the Territorial Army in Jammu and Kashmir for two weeks and missed the limited overs series in West Indies, home series against South Africa, Bangladesh and West Indies.
Spending time with the great ‘MSD,’ even in the pretext of enjoying Christmas, can only be an inspiring exercise for the Pant ahead of the Sri Lankan series in the New Year.