MUMBAI: Even though it is almost certain that he may have played the last of his 350 ODIs against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semifinal, M S Dhoni, 38, is not willing to go quietly into the night.
TOI has learned that after India’s World Cup campaign ended, chief selector M S K Prasad had a “discussion” with Dhoni. Perhaps with the World T20 next year in mind, Dhoni ruled out retiring for now, but crucially, he was told he “wasn’t in the scheme of things anymore, and the selectors now planned to go ahead with youngsters”.
Selectors now keen to give more opportunities to Pant in all formats
He (Dhoni) has told Prasad that he’s not retiring for now. However, he has been told that he’s not in the scheme of things. We’re going ahead with the youngsters. He told us to go ahead with our plans. That’s why in the presser, Prasad said that we’re looking ahead now. Now, it’s up to him if he wants to retire today, tomorrow, or whenever he wants to,” a reliable source told TOI on Sunday, a day on which the selectors picked three squads for the West Indies tour in August-September.
This essentially means that Dhoni isn’t willing to throw in the towel yet. For now, he will miss the tour of the West Indies as he’s taken a two-month break from the game to serve in the Territorial Army.
Meanwhile, even as he confirmed that Dhoni would be unavailable for the West Indies tour, Prasad, a former India stumper, maintained that it was the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman himself who could take a call on his future. He even refused to reveal whether he had a word with the former India captain about the same.
However, it’s now crystal clear that Dhoni isn’t an automatic pick anymore, given that the selectors have made up their mind to build a team for the future and are willing to invest in talented youngster Pant.
TOI had reported the same in its July 15 edition.
On Sunday, Prasad remained non-committal about Dhoni’s future, while stressing that the selectors were now keen to give more opportunities to Pant in all three formats of the game.
Regarding speculation around Dhoni’s retirement, Prasad said at the press conference, “Retirement is purely an individual (decision). A legendary cricketer like Dhoni knows when to retire. The future course of action is in the hands of the selection committee. I don’t think we need to discuss anything more on it. First of all, he is not available. Second, we have already started grooming youngsters.”
“Having said that, we had certain road maps till the World Cup. Subsequently, post the World Cup, we have laid down a few more plans. We thought of giving as many opportunities to Pant to see that he is groomed. That’s our plan right now,” Prasad said. He also said it was not appropriate to discuss MS Dhoni’s strike rate, which came under the scanner in the World Cup.
Giving a strong indication that Pant will now be the No 1 choice in the ODIs and T20Is, Prasad stressed that since the 21-year-old will be now considered for all the three formats, the young wicketkeeper-batsman’s workload management is a priority for the selectors. “We need to manage his workload. So, Wriddhiman Saha and KS Bharat will come into the picture,” stressed the chief selector.
The amount of faith the selectors have in Pant was visible when Prasad praised the young Turk for his innings of 32 against New Zealand after India slipped to 5/3 chasing 240 in the semifinal clash. “He played well. Especially in those conditions, he batted really well,” he added. It must be mentioned here that Pant, batting at No 4, had also received criticism for his dismissal, caught slogging to left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner in the deep.