The moment the ICC sounded the death knell for the World T20, the decks were cleared for the IPL. Even though the former was cancelled for this year because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the BCCI managed to lock in the dates of their domestic T20 tournament that will be hosted in the UAE; COVID-19 wasn’t an impediment in front of the IPL juggernaut.
But the big cricketing story about the IPL centres on a certain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni is both a living legend and a walking enigma of Indian cricket and fans of the wicket-keeper-batsman have been patiently waiting for his return to the cricket field since that fateful World Cup semifinal against New Zealand. Dhoni was the proverbial tragic hero on that day, failing to take India over the line despite a valiant late charge.
He has not stepped out on to the cricket field since then.
A lot has changed
With the former captain and World Cup winner taking a self-imposed exile from the Indian team, the scenario in the team has inexorably changed. Rishabh Pant, the extremely talented up-and-comer who was already in the scene before Dhoni’s departure, took over as the keeper.
However, despite his obvious abilities, a poor run saw him dropped from the team and KL Rahul being handed over keeping duties.
Surprisingly, Rahul excelled in his new role and his batting abilities seemed to be unaffected by the extra burden. With Dhoni out of the picture, Sanju Samson, another talented keeper-batsman, was also expected to get a chance in the national team, but he is yet to get a sustained opportunity for the Men in Blue.
So where does that leave the legend? Will MS Dhoni ever make it back to the team that he led to an unprecedented three ICC trophies, to the top of the pyramid in the ICC Test rankings, a team for which his exploits have attained epical status?
If we were to believe many former cricketers, who every now and then end being in the news for their opinion on MS Dhoni’s career, Dhoni may have played his last for India. But if that has happened, it will indeed be an extremely strange, and partly ignominious, way for Dhoni to bow out of international cricket.
Dhoni has not made a single statement about his cricket future. But that is in keeping with the man. Dhoni’s stoicism and ability to make shocking calls at unexpected junctures is part of the myth. One remembers his sudden decision to call time on his Test career at a relatively young age without any prior warnings.
IPL (s)- A new lease of life?
As fate would have it, MS Dhoni will get to play in two IPLs before the next World T20 takes place. His exploits for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the tournament has also been legendary.
Dhoni has not only led the yellow brigade to multiple titles, he has also been a giant with the bat for the Chennai outfit, having made 4432 runs in 190 matches at an astonishing average of 42.20 and an amazing strike-rate of almost 138.
Clearly, Dhoni will be aiming to set UAE alight come September. But can success in the IPL help him make a stunning return to the India team, especially in the T20 format?
It is tough to say. With the current options at the team management’s disposal, it will be a step backwards for them to select a 39-year-old who is past his prime. However, Team India Head Coach Ravi Shastri was of the opinion that a good performance in the 13th edition of the IPL could still open the doors for Dhoni for a return to the national side.
“It all depends on when he starts playing and how he plays during the IPL. What are other people doing with the wicket keeping gloves or what is the form of those players as opposed to Dhoni’s form. The IPL becomes a massive tournament because that could be the last tournament after which more or less your 15 players (for the T20 World Cup) are decided.”
And we never know with MS Dhoni. He can easily turn back the clock and invoke the spirit of the long-haired swashbuckler who burst on to the scene decades ago and blast his way back into the team, especially in the T20 format where a World Cup beckons.
He will get two IPLs and two long campaigns to make the world take notice of him again. One must wait till September to see what the maverick MSD has up his sleeves this time.
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