Mahendra Singh Dhoni will celebrate his 36th birthday this Friday and the former Indian captain’ career is at crossroads. Dhoni on Sunday against West Indies at Antigua scored a painstaking 54 off 114 balls (Yes, you have read that right) and India couldn’t chase 190 runs against lowly-ranked Caribbean side and ended up losing the match by 11 runs and now lead the five match ODI series 2-1, with one match to play.
Dhoni has been receiving flak from all quarters and the former skipper took 108 balls to score his fifty, slowest for any Indian batter since 2001. Has Dhoni lost his ability to finish matches that he used to do consistently in the past? The answer lies in the inconsistency shown by Dhoni in recent past. Just in the third ODI, he scored 78 not out and helped India post a competitive score on the board. The Jharkhand dasher’s game has shown inconsistency in recent times and his finishing ability has taken a serious hit.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his mark in international cricket by playing attacking cricket and taking the bull by the horns. The innings against Pakistan at Vizag, when he scored belligerent 148, where he blasted Pakistani bowlers to all parts and also innings against Sri Lanka at Jaipur, where he batted at No 3 and scored a magnificent 183* and showed his class and panache. The Ranchi rebel had swagger and certain kind of aura about him and when he hit 91* in the biggest match of his career, he wrote his name into history books and gave India the elusive world title. The ex-skipper became captain and again remodelled his game and for umpteen times finished matches for India and drew comparisons with legendary Australian finisher Michael Bevan.
Dhoni is not one to play for records or to play for the gallery and when he announced his retirement from Test cricket after the Melbourne Test match in December, 2014 it came as a total surprise and shock. The recent resignation as ODI and T20 skipper just six months before the ICC Champions Trophy again underlined the fact that Mahi will always put team first and personal records and milestones don’t matter to him. Dhoni of past two to three years takes time to settle in and then plays his natural game and there have been instances, where he has failed to cross the finishing line for India. When South Africa’s young speedster Kagiso Rabada stopped Dhoni in an ODI at Kanpur in the last over, it proved that Dhoni is mortal and his reflexes are not what it used to be.
Time to go?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has nothing left to prove and if he walks away from the game then he will always be remembered as a limited overs great, who redefined Indian cricket and won numerous trophies for the nation. India is lucky to have young player in Delhi’s Rishabh Pant and its time that the youngster should be thrown into the deep end. By the time 2019 World Cup comes around Dhoni will be close to 38 years and if India want to win the title then they have to seriously think about Dhoni’s presence in the team.
Mahi has played cricket on his own terms and he will be the first one to hang up his boots if he thinks that he is becoming surplus to the team and would not stand in way of a youngster. Time and tide waits for none and Dhoni is no exception and India wants old Dhoni back, but we also have to be realistic and admit that Dhoni has entered last phase of his career and end might be nearer then we think.