Experience, consistency, adapting to Australian conditions, explosive power, flamboyance. These are the criteria India head coach Ravi Shastri feels MS Dhoni can convert into currency to buy himself a ticket to the T20 World Cup, which will be held in October in Australia.
Even as the MSK Prasad-led selection panel has been clear about moving on from Dhoni, questions about his future in the Indian side have not died down. Dhoni, who will turn 39 in July, has not played any cricket since he took a break after India’s semi-final exit at the ODI World Cup last July. Dhoni added to the intrigue recently when he asked to wait till January without revealing exactly what for.
As far as Shastri is concerned, Dhoni remains in the race and will be fighting for the same spot as Rishabh Pant and possibly Sanju Samson. In a chat with Indian TV channel CNN-News18, Shastri said: “You will have to see who will do the job at what number, what role, who is the best guy. You will take experience into account. You will take youth into account. You will take flamboyance into account. And who fits into that number the best whether it is X, Y or Z. Plus we are playing in Australia (so) who will adapt to those conditions the best.”
“For me, he [Dhoni] is like Kapil Dev. Kaps never had a problem right through his career.”
According to Shastri all three keeping options – Dhoni, Pant and Samson – possess the “explosive power” necessary to marshal the lower order.
“They will all bat round [number] 5, 6… you will need power at the back, explosive power. All the three names you took, they all have that explosive power. (So) you will have to see consistency, experience, conditions – all that will come into play when the selectors look at it.”
Recently Shastri had said that one can’t “fool around” with Dhoni, if he put himself in “contention” by having a good IPL later this summer. Shastri reiterated that point once again.
“Good IPL, then he puts himself into contention. Then it is the selectors’ job to see what they want to do, but if he has a great IPL then he puts himself into contention.”
But what if Pant and Samson also matched Dhoni with good numbers in the IPL? Shastri said experience and playing in Australian conditions would key determining factors in that case. “Then you will have to see: conditions come into play, experience comes into play, who will adapt best in those conditions.”
Shastri also compared Dhoni to former India captain Kapil Dev, who continued playing international cricket into his late 30s, remaining fit till the end. “Would you put it beyond anyone if a guy is performing and the guy who has never had fitness problems in his entire career? For me, he (Dhoni) is like Kapil Dev. Kaps never had a problem right through his career.”