MS Dhoni, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle: What T20 World Cup postponement means for these veterans
The ICC on Monday announced the postponement of the T20 World Cup – originally scheduled to be held in Australia later this year in Australia – to 2021, and while the decision finally ends the suspense of the fate of the tournament, it has put on tenterhooks the future of some veteran cricketers, who are on the last leg of their career. It is likely to change plans for the likes of MS Dhoni, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Dwayne Bravo, Lasith Malinga and Dale Steyn. Now that the tournament has been rescheduled, here is our assessment of what the future holds for these legends.
It’s been more than a year and yet there is no news on MS Dhoni’s future. The former India captain has not played any form of cricket since India’s exit in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup. Although MSK Prasad, the former chief selector of the BCCI had claimed that the team had moved on from Dhoni, he was believed to be back in the reckoning for the T20 World Cup based on his performance in the IPL. Until two days back, that prospect was in jeopardy as the IPL stood postponed. However, with the BCCI all set to stage the tournament in the UAE, Dhoni’s fans would rejoice. Who knows? Perhaps Dhoni has one more ace up his sleeve before taking the final bow.
Lasith Malinga is the only bowler in history to take three ODI hat-tricks and two in T20Is, the most recent being when he picked up four wickets in four balls against New Zealand last September. After deciding to retire from ODI shortly after the 2019 World Cup, Malinga announced he will walk away after the T20 World Cup but made a U-turn on the decision, saying he could go on for a couple of years post it. However, with the T20 World Cup rescheduled to next year, followed by another T20 World and then the 50-over World Cup, one of two things can happen – Malinga can either call time before next year’s World Cup, or make it two in two, subject to how Sri Lanka perform. Remember IPL 2018? When Malinga served as mentor of the side, only to return the following year and deliver a title-winning final over against CSK?
By Gayle’s own admission, he may go on playing forever for the West Indies. But father time catches up with everyone, even if you’re the ‘Universe Boss’. The 40-year-old veteran, who had announced in February of 2019 that he would retire from ODIs after the World Cup, reversed his decision during the tournament and played the series against India at home. In January this year, Gayle surprised everyone by saying he wants to carry on till 45, and while that may be a bit of exaggeration, there’s no reason to believe why Gayle can’t hang in for another year. He is one of the few cricketers who plays T20 World Cup all around the world – IPL, CPL, PSL, Abu Dhabi T10. And even though he will not be part of the 2020 PSL, Gayle has an IPL and one entire year of T20 tournaments to be part of West Indies’ T20 WC title defence.
AB de Villiers
South Africa’s limited-over captain Quinton de Kock confirmed Monday that AB de Villiers, who had retired from international cricket in May of 2018, was in line to play the T20 World Cup. Reports of de Villiers’ potential comeback first started doing the rounds during last year’s World Cup, where the former SA captain had informed Faf du Plessis of his desire to play the World Cup, causing a huge stir. With South Africa struggling to deliver good results, du Plessis had earlier stated that plans are being made to bring de Villiers back for the T20 World Cup. Earlier this year, it was reported that de Villiers was set to play in at least one of South Africa’s T20I series before the T20 World Cup, but with very little cricket resumption taking place, de Villiers’ plans remain shrouded in uncertainty. However, given his participation in the 3T tournament and postponed IPL 2020, South Africa should be optimistic of de Villiers being ready to feature in the T20 World Cup next year.
Bravo announced his retirement in 2018, and a year later, came out of it committed to play the T20 World Cup. Earlier this year, Bravo even featured in five T20Is for West Indies, three against Ireland in January and another two against Sri Lanka in March. Bravo will turn 37 by the time the World Cup takes place, and given his record in T20 cricket, he should be an automatic pick. Like his West Indies teammate Chris Gayle, Bravo is no stranger to playing T20 league and that should keep him match ready as West Indies gear up to retain the title.
To be honest, it will be a surprise if Steyn stays around till next year’s T20 World Cup. An injury-prone body and lack of match practice are the two biggest hindrances in Steyn’s plans of making it to the World Cup. Last August, Steyn announced his retirement from Test cricket to concentrate in ODIs and T20Is, especially the latter. Between March 2019 and now, Steyn has featured in all of just three matches – two T20Is against England followed by one against Australia, from which he picked a combined three wickets. Unlike other veterans, Steyn’s injuries prevent him from being part of T20 cricket around the world, which makes his participation in the ICC event highly doubtful.