Dhoni makes himself 'unavailable' for Windies tour… but rules out immediate retirement
New Delhi: Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni Saturday made himself "unavailable" for the coming tour of the West Indies but ruled out immediate retirement a day before the selectors meet in Mumbai to pick the squads for the upcoming away series. Amid mounting speculation around his international retirement after India's semi-final exit from the recent World Cup, Dhoni has told the BCCI that he will take a two-month sabbatical from the game to serve his paramilitary regiment.
Dhoni is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army, "We would like to clarify three things. M S Dhoni is not retiring from cricket right now. He is taking a two-month sabbatical to serve his paramilitary regiment which he had committed much earlier. We have now intimated his decision to skipper Virat Kohli and chairman of selectors M S K Prasad," said a BCCI official on Saturday.
The 38-year-old Dhoni's refusal to take retirement now leaves the ball in the court of the selectors, who were expected to drop him from the squad for the West Indies. India will play three T20 Internationals, as many ODIs and two Tests in the tour starting August 3.
It is believed that the selection committee chaired by Prasad wants to move forward with an eye on future but they would also like to get a sense of where the Indian captain stands on this issue. "The selection committee has always been clear on one issue. They have no right to tell anyone irrespective of their stature as to when they should call it quits but when it comes to team selection, it remains their domain," a senior BCCI official said.
With Dhoni pulling out of the tour, Rishabh Pant is expected to be first wicketkeeper in all three formats while Wriddhiman Saha will be Pant's understudy in the Tests. From now, the focus will be more on T20 cricket keeping the World T20 in mind, which is scheduled to be held in Australia next year.
India will be playing a lot of bilateral three-match T20 series in run-up to the global meet and with Dhoni expected to play one more season of IPL with Chennai Super Kings, things are a bit tricky at the moment. There are a few questions that the selectors need to answer.
Do they see Dhoni playing till the World T20? If the answer is yes, are they willing to give him 15 to 18 T20s during the phase as a keeper-batsman?
If that answer is also yes, it would boil down to whether skipper Virat Kohli sees him as a batsman in T20s where keeping isn't the primary skill required.