MS Dhoni was not available for selection for the upcoming three-match Twenty20 Internationals against South Africa. (Image credit: Twitter)
When one comes to MS Dhoni and his current place in the Indian cricket team, one is likely to encounter polar opposite views regarding his place. A massive majority believe that Dhoni is still good as a keeper, batsman and a captain as the back-up in Rishabh Pant is weak. There is a small but significant minority who believe India must move-on from Dhoni and that heading into the coming seasons, the new blood must be given a fair run. When the team for the South Africa Twenty20s was selected, Dhoni's omission raised some questions.
According to people close to the MSK Prasad-led selection panel, they are 'looking ahead' with two consecutive T20 World Cups coming up in 2020 and 2021. "This selection committee is clear on one front. They will never ask any questions to Dhoni with regards to retirement as that's not their domain. But till they are in charge, they reserve the right to select the squad and as far as they are concerned, Rishabh Pant is now India's first-choice keeper across formats," a senior BCCI official told PTI after the India squad was selected. Prasad revealed that Dhoni did not make himself available for selection for the series against South Africa.
Let us consider the circumstances behind Dhoni's omission. After the end of the World Cup, Dhoni took a two-month sabbatical and did not make himself available for selection for the West Indies tour. Dhoni served the Territorial Indian Army for 15 days and after that, he has been on vacation in the United States of America.
If one has to look at the circumstances currently, then the selectors are justified in not picking Dhoni. Afterall, if the player has not made himself available for selection, then what can the selectors do? One also has to consider that Dhoni bats at No.6 in T20Is. If one looks at his numbers in that position, it does not make for good reading. His strike-rates in the 2019 series against Australia and New Zealand were 117.30 and 115.
In the last couple of seasons, Dhoni has struggled to finish games in T20Is. The game in Rajkot against New Zealand in 2017, Birmingham in 2014, Zimbabwe in 2016 and the narrow loss in the record run-chase at Lauderhill versus West Indies are some examples of his dip. Whether one likes it or not, probably because of the position, Dhoni has not enjoyed a good run in Twenty20 Internationals in the last couple of seasons.
One can understand why fans would want Dhoni to continue. Rishabh Pant has not given the fans much confidence after his underwhelming show in the limited overs series in Australia and in the current series against West Indies. Pant has been guilty of playing rash shots to get out and this has raised questions over his maturity and whether he can finish the innings off well. The problem facing Pant is that Dhoni has raised the standard so high when it comes to batting and keeping that anything less is a failure.
There is no question of Dhoni regarding fitness and commitment. When it comes to fitness, Dhoni is supreme. When it comes to commitment, Dhoni runs the show with Virat Kohli being his understudy. However, when Dhoni himself has made it clear that he was not available for selection, then the selectors did the right thing in not naming Dhoni for the South Africa series. MSK Prasad and the selection committee must be given their dues slightly. Foresight is a tricky thing and it is necessary to blood youngsters and look ahead. Many people have said it and the time is now - India must now think of life without MS Dhoni.