The end of the Dhoni era in Indian cricket
The world over, World Cups double as a chance for great players to retire on a high. Or just retire. Cricket, especially Indian cricket, is an exception. For well over a decade, MS Dhoni gave the vibe he would break that mould. But another World Cup has come and gone, and Dhoni has not retired. For almost a decade, Dhoni ruled as India’s captain. Ever since he led the team to a spectacular triumph at the first T20 World Cup in 2007, through the World Cup win in 2011, and beyond, Dhoni was central to the imagination of the Indian cricket fan. But his time is up. India’s chief selector MSK Prasad made it abundantly clear last week when he said, while naming the squad for the upcoming series against Bangladesh, “We are focusing on Rishabh Pant only.”
After he retired from Tests, Dhoni kept himself relevant in the shorter formats of the game. His sustained success as Chennai Super Kings captain was proof that his tactical acumen was as razor-sharp as his ability to judge a run. At the Indian Premier League, Indians were served annual reminders that they couldn’t do without Dhoni. It rang true for a long time but Dhoni’s real success was in not letting people realise age was slowly catching up with him. At the World Cup in June, that realisation finally dawned. Dhoni, the great finisher, who could overhaul any total with his ice-cold guile between the wickets and his ability to hit big, found himself unable to do either. In the semi-final, the finest judge of a run was run out. It was India’s World Cup to lose, and they did.
India has moved beyond Dhoni. He hasn’t played a single game after the World Cup as India tries to fit in Wriddhiman Saha in Tests and Rishabh Pant or KL Rahul in the shorter formats. Sanju Samson has come into the mix too. It is a move, the chief selector said, that is endorsed by the man himself.