By giving Sri Lanka a miss, and becoming the first player to deliberately opt out from a tour, has MS Dhoni hit a bold shot or dismissed himself hit wicket? The third umpire will take time to decide but this surely is a high-risk move, like reverse sweeping Brett Lee, which could bring him plenty of grief in the future.
Seen from Dhoni's perspective, it is the right thing to do, and he has done it the right way. The facts: the man is knackered, his body is complaining, he desperately needs a break. To skip the tour Dhoni could have pulled any muscle in his body or complained about the back, the groin or any other body part. Later, once refreshed, all he had to do was produce a medical certificate, and the team physio would have conveniently pronounced him fit, not before marvelling at his speedy recovery. This drama has happened many times, with many players — this is the normal route to take in Indian cricket.
But Dhoni's honesty creates a problem. People are aghast that he is missing Tests, which in their understanding means disrespect for the India team, a huge sin in itself. Moreover, given the backdrop of the IPL, this unorthodox stroke appears even more wrong in terms of public perception.
Such old-fashioned views, though questionable, can bite Dhoni a few months down the line. There are some in the Board who are okay with players choosing what to play and what not to. Others, driven by a sense of outrage at this insensitivity towards the country, will wait for an opportunity to pounce on him. To them, the issue is not about a tired player wanting a rest but one of power. In this game, the rules say the ones in authority choose who plays when and where and not, as Dhoni has done, the other way round. It is quite likely none of this will happen, and Dhoni's decision will be taken in the right spirit. Still, viewed from other angles, he has, in a sense, left his off-stump exposed. Dhoni, in Tests, is not exactly Gilchrist, not even a Mark Boucher, so is it pragmatic for him to give his competitors a chance? What happens if Dinesh Karthik, his replacement, scores a few runs?
Also, there is a potential worry for Dhoni in the fact that his withdrawal from the Lanka Tests has allowed Virender Sehwag to regain the vice-captaincy of the team. After being dropped for the England tour last year, Sehwag is in the saddle again and he is in red-hot form. Once again, he has become a strong contender to lead India whenever a vacancy arises. Till Dhoni decided to take a holiday, this job was his. Now there will be a reason for selectors to look at other options.
Maybe all this is mere speculation, and too much calculation. The future, like everything else in cricket, is extremely uncertain, fortunes change quicker than the Sensex.