MS Dhoni and his midas touch - Can Indian cricket do without him?
It is not that it appeared to require fresh validation, but the national selectors have made it clear they are on the same page as the Indian team management when it comes to MS Dhoni’s spot until the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Chief selector MSK Prasad even declared MS Dhoni as the world’s best wicketkeeper at the moment, essentially announcing that his choice for the 2019 World Cup in England is sealed. Prasad may not entirely be off the mark as Dhoni is seen as a leader among limited-overs keepers.
The debate over Dhoni losing the ability to tee off in the slog overs, considering that he will be 38 when the next World Cup is played, has somewhat died down.
With the ODI middle-order somewhat unsettled and the team management refusing to play Ajinkya Rahane at No 4 or 5, MS Dhoni’s calm approach, be it in the series in Sri Lanka in August-September or in the Chennai game against Australia, have suited the team.
Besides, MS Dhoni has been a vital ally to skipper Virat Kohli in terms of deciding tactics on the field. He has also mentored Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who have stepped into the big shoes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, cementing their spots.
However, it is unusual for a chief selector to insist there is no other wicketkeeper who can do MS Dhoni’s job. Prasad effectively said the selectors don’t want to consider any other stumper till the World Cup.
By that logic, India’s spin department would not have been boosted in limited-overs cricket. On the other hand, they have not even picked Ravindra Jadeja in the squad, despite his sharp fielding, batting and bowling, not even ahead of third spinner Axar Patel.
Former India stumper and chief selector Kiran More fully backed MS Dhoni but disagreed with Prasad’s comments on the rest of the country’s wicketkeeping resources.
“I don’t agree with that statement,” More told Hindustan Times. “Dhoni is still the best, especially with young bowlers in the team like Kuldeep and Chahal, and that shows in the game. Dhoni is the key person for Virat on the field, whether it’s setting the field or discussing tactics.
And he bats at 6 or 7, and can carry the innings. If he is fit, he can play. He is quick. As a fast bowler, Ashish Nehra showed if you are fit, you can play (despite the age).”
But More felt the selectors should ensure back-up in the build-up to the World Cup and is surprised one obvious choice is not in the mix.
“But 2019 is a long way off, and if there are any niggles (for Dhoni), you need to have back up,” he said. “Dinesh (Karthik) is there. But I’m really surprised Wriddhiman Saha is not there. He has scored T20 100s. I’m a bit surprised, why don’t they have a look at him?”
Saha, 33, took over when MS Dhoni retired from Tests in 2015 and has become an integral part of the side as a keeper and batsman. Saha has expressed keenness to play limited-overs cricket, but Karthik, picked as batsman, is the back-up.
More is confident the other keepers are competent if asked to step into Dhoni’s shoes. “All are good enough. But I do agree they should be given some matches now and then to keep them motivated.”