India’s former captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has not been included in the Twenty20 squad for the series against South Africa.
I was in India when the news broke and most newspapers went with the headline: “Dhoni dropped from India squad”.
Having trailed Dhoni from the start of his international career and being present at some of his glorious performances as a player and a captain, one could never imagine this day would come.
Dhoni’s dominance and authority was much more than what Virat Kohli has now, both as a player and a captain. During his glory days, none imagined that Dhoni would ever stretch his career to such a stage where the idea of him being dropped could be a reality. Imagine reading a headline, sometime in the future, that says: ‘Kohli dropped from India squad!’
Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Dhoni and Kohli are all icons of Indian cricket. It would be a shame to see their names appear on a list of players being dropped.
In this case, Dhoni alone will have to take the responsibility for having pushed his career to such a stage.
In fact, the whole issue has snowballed into a bigger mess, with selectors hesitating to use the term “dropped” and putting it respectfully that Dhoni was “unavailable” for selection.
Before the team selection for the West Indies tour, Dhoni had personally announced that he would be unavailable for selection since he was to undergo a two-week training with the Indian Army in Kashmir.
However, before the selectors assembled to pick the team for the South Africa series, Dhoni had made no such announcements, hence him being dropped became big news.
Two days later, probably realising the enormity of the impact, chief selector M.S.K. Prasad said Dhoni was unavailable.
The fact is, while the selectors now do not want to take the responsibility for dropping Dhoni, the former Indian captain is also enjoying buying his time.
Dhoni has now taken a one and-a-half month break from cricket after the World Cup — but whether such a move was right or wrong is also being debated.
It is understandable that selectors are keen to have a strong wicketkeeper before the Twenty20 World Cup next year and they would prefer to give Rishabh Pant enough time and matches to settle down in Dhoni’s shoes.
Being a captain who led India to two World Cup triumphs, Dhoni himself is aware of this plan but he continues to believe that he can contribute beyond the age of 38.
It’s now time for his fans to ask if it’s right for Dhoni to be “unavailable” at 38 and also at the same time create a mystery over whether he was actually dropped.
Great careers are meant to be remembered rather than brought to an unceremonious exit!