MSD or Mahi or Dhoni is an unique character in the history of cricket. Probably no one has ever polarised cricket fans anywhere in the world as this wicketkeeper-batsman of India who has a rags to riches story.
Labelled the best finisher, recently this label got dents with a loss each against Zimbabwe and West Indies in the last over of a T20. There have been various discussions as to whether he should now retire from all forms of the game and not just Tests which he has done so far.
The magical journey started for this former TTE (a very junior employee of the state-run rail carrier Indian Railways) worker when he got a chance for India as other keepers did were not doing well and India dispensed with experiment of Dravid doing part time keeping. While his ODI debut saw him scoring a duck, in his fifth match he scored a 123-ball 148 and in his eighth, promoted to number three after the great Sachin fell early, he scored 183 and India easily chased 299. The Mahi script started well.
Captaincy? As destiny would have it, India were supposed to play the T20 World Cup. T20 was looked down upon, and Sachin, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid declined to play it, citing need for rest. The selectors headed by Dilip Vengsarkar sprung a surprise and made Mahi the captain.
India which went on to win the world cup in an earlier match won in a ‘bowlout’. This was in my opinion a silly experiment which thankfully was not repeated. In the event of a tie, three bowlers would bowl at the stumps. Pakistan went in for regular quick bowlers like Umar Gul and all missed. India went in with non-regular bowlers like Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa and our great offie Harbhajan Singh hit timber each and every time.
This out of the box thinking was also seen in the final by Dhoni giving an unknown Joginder Singh the last over instead of the vastly experienced Bhajji. Despite giving a wide the first ball and being hit for a huge six in the second, India defended the 12 runs reqd in last over and forced the bowl out.
Mahi later on became famous for such unconventional captaincy.
Test captaincy? As luck would have it, Anil Kumble chose to bow out after a remarkable career and Dhoni was pitchforked into Test Captaincy as well. Supposedly Sachin Tendulkar had a role to play here. Whatever be the reason, Dhoni remained the undisputed captain for all three formats until he decided to give up the Test captaincy.
There was discussion of his being dropped from captaincy but as per Mohinder Amarnath the BCCI President used his veto to retain him as Captain until he himself called it a day.
Utility as Test player? There have been lots of discussion about Mahi having a terrible technique. That could be , but well, Statistics don’t lie. In his 90 matches he has scored almost 5000 runs with six tons and 33 50s. Critics say that he hasn’t done well abroad, but aren’t Indian batsmen known for failing abroad, barring the odd Sachin and Sourav?
So why expect wonders from a keeper-bat? Isnt an average of 38 plus good enough for someone who is not a pure batsman.
Should he retire? Retirement is a personal decision and is not to be forced upon anyone. Rather selection is something which can be discussed and debated. Does he warrant selection in the ODI team and the T20 team as a player? I feel he is far better and far ahead of those aspiring to take his place.
Of late indeed the role of finisher has got some dents. Mahi’s style was to take the game till the last over and then finish it off with a few hefty whacks. However suddenly India lost a couple of matches and Dhoni was at the receiving end as he could not finish the game off, and India lost.
This has led to calls for his retirement from all forms of the game. Now should he retire ? There is no doubt that he is not at the top of his game and he is not the Mahi he once was. Cricket that way is a funny game with hardly any top cricketer retiring at the top of his game , except maybe Sunil Gavaskar or Greg Chappell. Otherwise most top cricketers have tried to prolong their career till as much as possible. Often with unfortunate ultimatums.
I leave this topic of whether he should retire or not to all of you to deliberate upon. Does he warrant selection in the ODI team and the T20 team as a player. I would say yes. While i would not go as far as Virat Kohli and Ajinjya Rahane who even now say that Dhoni is the best finisher and still will win India matches 9 out of 0f times, I would say that he is far better and far ahead than those aspiring to take his place .
Its up to the selectors and him to decide his future. Of course, as fans and avid watchers we will also have our views to which we certainly are entitled. My personal opinion is that if he plays as a player only without the burdens of captaincy we will see a transformed and rejuvenated Mahi who will win many more matches for his country.
( Note; this Blog has been published by the Aussie on line community The Roar)