Where is Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Has he played his last match for India or is he going to make a comeback? These and many other questions relating to his absence from the Indian team have a ring of mystery to it, if not intrigue. It is a puzzle that millions of fans are grappling with.
It was in the month of July last year that Dhoni played for India in the World Cup in England. He was not a failure and made runs, although not in the spectacular fashion he is known for. His batting was more of a drag than the dazzling exhibition of muscular strokes that usually used to finish with a bang and not a whimper, as it did in the World Cup. India were eliminated in the semifinals and there were many who felt that had Dhoni batted like his vintage self, India could have justified the pre-tournament tag of favourites to win the championship.
It has been nearly six months now and India is swamping all opposition at home post the World Cup, with Dhoni missing from the action. Has he retired, is he resting or has he been dropped? These questions are being raised as there is no clarity from those who select the team. The Indian board president had right at the beginning of his tenure said that Dhoni deserves to go out on his own terms and is still a valuable asset to the team.
This has been the refrain of almost everyone in the cricketing establishment, including the India captain and coach. It is not clear whether they are in touch with him and know for sure what his future plans are. It is not even clear whether the Indian team even wants him back and is deliberately letting things drift? Coach Ravi Shastri did say a few days back that Dhoni would soon finish his ODI career and if he has a good IPL, he would play in the T20 World Cup, which is going to be played in Australia later this year.
Going by Shastri’s utterances, it is likely that Dhoni might get a farewell one-day series before he calls it quits to this format. Would that mean that he will still be available to play in the T20 World Cup which is nearly 10 months away?
No one knows. Dhoni, through his silence, has left everyone confused. Not only has he refused to speak on his future plans, he has also not played in any domestic match after the World Cup. Had he been a player of lesser stature and not among India’s greatest shorter format cricketers, it would have been safe to presume that he was unlikely to be picked to play for the country again.
It would not be wrong to presume that the 39-year-old former India captain would test his fitness and form in the IPL which will be played from end-March to May. As Shastri put it, his future in Indian cricket will depend on the kind of form Dhoni displays in the IPL. Assuming he does have a successful tournament, does it guarantee him a place in the World Cup which is scheduled nearly four months after the IPL? Perhaps yes, perhaps not, depending largely upon what the selectors and the captain think.
From a larger perspective of team selection and future preparations, this is not a good situation to be in. This is what makes Dhoni’s mysterious silence on his future very baffling, given the selfless commitment he has shown while playing for the country. It just goes to show how difficult it is for us to let go and accept all good things will end someday.