Ever since India lost in the semi-final of the World Cup last year, Dhoni has not been involved in any kind of competitive form of cricket. While he has been away for such a long time, speculations about his retirement have been doing the rounds every now and then. He himself has been brushing aside questions on his future and provided no concrete ideas as to when his extended sabbatical will end. When preparations for this year's IPL began at the end of February, fans were ecstatic to see their Thala bat in the nets for CSK.
Now, let's dive into the scheme of things that has been developing ever since India's World Cup campaign ended last July. MSK Prasad, then-chief of selectors, stated that he has talked to MS and the selectors are "moving on" with the youngsters. Recently, head coach, Ravi Shastri, said that Dhoni is very much in contention for a place in the squad for the T20 World Cup. But they will monitor all the available options in the upcoming IPL. Due to the extensive spread of the Coronavirus, or the Covid-19 disease, every major sporting event (Olympics and Euros 2020) stands canceled. The seventeenth edition of the Indian Premier League might not even take place (currently rescheduled to 15 April). This might further dent the cricketer's chances of making a comeback to the senior squad.
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That all being said, here are the reasons why Dhoni might not play in the ICC World Cup 2020:
A strong middle order:
Let's first look at India's current middle order when everyone is fit. Virat Kohli at number 3 needs no justification. Shreyas Iyer has cemented his place at number 4 in the recent months. Consistently piling on runs both home and abroad, India's much-talked-about number 4 position is not a problem at least for the time being. Then we have the stylish KL Rahul at number 5. He is the pick of the batsmen in recent months. He provides flexibility to this batting line-up and will prove to be an asset for the team in a big tournament like the ICC World Cup 2020. He can bat as an opener, number 3, 4, 5 and even 6 in different scenarios. At number 6, there is Hardik Pandya. Coming on the back of an extended injury gap, the all-rounder came all guns blazing in the recently concluded Reliance Cup with a 39-ball century and 155 runs off 58 balls too. At number 7, we have mercurial all-rounder Ravinder Jadeja whose accurate left-arm spin and lusty blows at the end will come in handy for the team. Manish Pandey has also thrown his hat in the ring with a fighting half-century in the last T20I against New Zealand. And bringing-in Dhoni could mean destabilizing the whole dynamic of the team.
The KL Rahul effect:
After Dhoni took a break from the national side, Rishabh Pant was donning the gloves for the Men in Blue. But a string of below-par performances from Pant made way for Rahul to cement his place in the team. He has been in and out for the majority of games and was called upon when somebody in the team had an injury. And Rahul grabbed the chance with both hands and holds an impressive average of 53.83 in T20Is this year. This includes three half-centuries as well. Everyone is left in awe of the composure that the Kings XI Punjab captain has shown while batting. He understands the situation quite well and bats accordingly, a quality that Dhoni is widely recognized for.
Dhoni's own finishing abilities:
Indian fans will remember his dismissal in the semi-final defeat last year for a long time. Let's be brave to admit that Dhoni's slow start and his inability to cope up with the asking rate cost us the game. While Jadeja was all guns blazing on the other side, Dhoni just needed to tickle the ball around for a single and move to the other end. And he failed in doing so for the majority of the innings. Something that piled up pressure on Jadeja too. Dhoni's own finishing abilities have been on the decline for some time now. In a T20I against West Indies in August 2016, after quick-fire half-centuries from KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, India just needed 8 runs from the last over with Dhoni on strike. After being dropped off the first ball from Samuels, 2 runs were required off the last delivery. Dhoni sliced a slower ball from Dwayne Bravo to the hands of the third man. Thus, India lost by one run. These two were not the only isolated incidents. He was tied down by the Afghani bowlers in the group stages of the World Cup. Also, his attitude in the England game did raise a few eyebrows too.
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MS Dhoni is 38 and is not getting any younger in the coming days. Let's keep aside our emotions for a second and admit that he is not the batsman that he once was. There is no player that is bigger than the game. He must perform in order to get into the team. If the IPL 2020 is canceled due to Coronavirus, his chances will remain bleak. But he is MS Dhoni and you never know what he pulls off in the next few months.