It was moments after India’s T20 World Cup exit in Mumbai, MS Dhoni had to encounter a question on his international cricket future. It was not the first time someone asked Dhoni about ‘retirement’ but the India captain uncharacteristically lost his cool and added a lot of theatrics to the interaction.
On April 31, 2016, an Australian journalist asked MS Dhoni if he wanted to continue playing after India’s defeat to the West Indies in the semi-final. Dhoni answered the question but not before ridiculing the said journalist.
Here’s how the conversation between Dhoni and the journalist went
Journalist: Do you think you can continue playing on after this tournament?
Dhoni: Come here! Come please let’s have some fun. Please come.
Then Dhoni proceeds to ask: You want me to retire?
Journalist: No! No!
Dhoni: I was hoping it was an Indian media guy, because I can’t really say if you have a brother or a son who can play for India or is a wicketkeeper. But do you think I am unfit?
Dhoni: How is my running?
Journalist: Very fast
Dhoni: You think I can survive until the 2019 World Cup?
Dhoni: Then you’ve answered the question you fired the wrong ammunition at the wrong time.
Later, Sam Ferris, the journalist in question, wrote a column in which he expressed his surprise at Dhoni’s behaviour, saying he believed he ‘came up with a standard question’.
Cut to March 31, 2020, questions about MS Dhoni’s future in international cricket are still among the most-talked-about subjects in the Indian cricket fraternity.
Dhoni has not played competitive cricket since India’s exit in the 2019 World Cup but showed signs that he has not given up on comeback hopes yet when he turned up at a pre-Indian Premier League (IPL) training camp earlier in March.
From the head coach of the Indian cricket team to his childhood coach, everybody seems to have had their take on Dhoni’s future but the World Cup-winner has kept mum. “January tak, math poocho,” was the only hint he gave during the long sabbatical he took from international cricket.
How long will the question remain unanswered?
It’s surprising to see the uncertainty around Dhoni’s limited-overs career, especially after the way he decided to step away from Test cricket. Unlike the current situation, Dhoni’s decision to retire from Tests was unforeseen. It came when he was 32. It came in the middle of a high-profile Test series in Australia.
Nonetheless, Dhoni has managed to keep his detractors quiet and let his performances do the talking even as the pressure has been mounting at various stages in the recent past.
Dhoni gave up limited-overs captaincy as early as 2017 but made himself an inevitable member of the squad during the transition phase. He is still arguably the best limited-overs wicketkeeper in the country and his experience from behind the wicket, as pointed out umpteen times, had served captain Kohli well.
From helping out spinners with his ability to analyse things from behind the wicket to coming up with suggestions to captain Kohli, Dhoni h as been a crucial member of the Indian side. Not to forget his expertise with the Decision Review System that is often dubbed as Dhoni Review System on social media.
Dhoni has had his fair share of lean patches over the last few years. However, he has managed to emerge stronger from such setbacks. The IPL in 2018 wherein he was striking at more than 150 and a productive year in 2019 in ODI cricket have all come after brief periods of dip in form.
Dhoni’s experience is still being counted in when former cricketers and experts are discussing his future in international cricket. The team management and the selectors are not ruling him out either.
Despite the emergence of Rishabh Pant and the performances of KL Rahul as wicketkeeper-batsman in limited-overs cricket, a Dhoni return is something that can’t be ruled out.
However, having not played competitive cricket for more than 8 months and uncertainty surrounding IPL 2020, it remains to be seen how long Dhoni can keep the big question unanswered.