(Photo Credits: India.com)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been ushered out of the exit door.
It’s a prudent call for Indian cricket’s future in a format they haven’t ever cared much about. T20 is a money churner in India when the IPL fiesta is on, but a siesta-inducing filler-of-sorts that helps cushion the sides of bilateral series for the rest of the year.
The World T20 is the only relevant tournament, and for a 37-year-old Dhoni, a two-year jaunt to the next edition could be too much of an ask.
When MS Dhoni played his first T20I for India, Rishabh Pant was a nine-year-old. 12 years later, Dhoni has been ousted from his golden throne by the firebrand Pant, who carries the same swagger that a young Dhoni once did.
While he seemed to have been constructed for the T20 game, Dhoni’s spluttering pyrotechnics never gained enough flight in its international form. And frankly, Dhoni’s T20I career often got mixed with his IPL success.
Perhaps, he had himself to blame for under-utilising the batsman in him in T20Is.
One of the best ODI batsmen of all time, Dhoni found himself with a sprinkling of deliveries to swing his bat at in T20Is, featuring mostly at the No.6 spot.
He averages 51 from 12 games at No.4, and a strike-rate of 153.61, but has resorted to batting lower down the order, forced to slide down due to the likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, and later a bunch of youngsters, who all played ahead of him. In successful chases, he averages 67.
In IPL, he strikes the ball at a rate of 140, a good 11 units higher than his T20I figure.
He was in prime form in the 2018 IPL, averaging over 75, and captaining a returning side to the title. All seemed happy in Dhoni-land, but the moment yellow was switched with blue, batting became an excruciating affair.
The randomness involved with the scheduling of T20 games could have hurt Dhoni’s batting, and it showed in his numbers – his strike-rate oscillated between 86 and 150 in two consecutive years.
Away from his batting crests and troughs though, what stood out was his primary job – his glovework behind the stumps. He’s the clear leader in catches and stumpings and made a name for himself in prising out chances that tilted the game completely.
For the captain, the World T20 win in 2007 kickstarted a promising career, but it ended up being a jumbled haze of strewn-around memories.
His efficiency behind the stumps is nonpareil, his calls for an umpire review top-notch. But what initially made him a T20 hero has pulled him down now – batting.
An average of 27 in ODIs this year, a strike-rate in the late 60s and no fifties to show: the selectors had to give the greying Dhoni a nudge, but have kept the 50-over engine running, at least till the World Cup next year, at the expense of the sacrificial 20-over form.
It is sad that Dhoni is walking out into the sunset with a limp; just months ago he was striding out with full gusto in a Chennai Super Kings promotional video, and the manner in which he went about his business in the IPL, made it seem like he might actually stretch himself till the 2020 World T20.
One wonders how the future will shape up – the wee lad Rishabh Pant, 21, and the ever-existing Dinesh Karthik, 33, will steer the ship ahead. The randomness of T20 cricket continues to thrive, but one of its pin-up stars has started crumbling into dust.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been ushered out of the exit door. Sadly, time does spare no one.