The tournament, if all went well for him, was expected to bring him back into contention for October’s T20 World Cup in Australia, thereby allowing him to quit the game on the same stage that catapulted him to superstardom after he captained the team to victory in the inaugural edition of the event in South Africa in 2007.
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And now, the IPL itself is in doubt, bringing about an unexpected roadblock in his plans to exit the game in the manner he had envisaged.
Childhood coach Ranjan is unperturbed
His childhood coach, Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, is clearly not concerned. IPL or no IPL, Banerjee believes his ward will find a place for himself when the T20 World Cup beckons.
“In the current scenario, IPL looks unlikely and we will have to wait for BCCI’s call. His (Dhoni’s) position will become tough obviously. But my sixth sense says he will get a chance in the T20 World Cup, which will be his last,” Banerjee told PTI on Friday, voicing an opinion that most others have preferred to keep quiet about or merely refer to in hushed tones.
Banerjee, however, may not have read what India’s new chief selector Sunil Joshi had to say soon after he took over the role earlier this month.
“He (Dhoni) will be back in the reckoning only if he has a good IPL. And why only him, there are so many senior and young players who will play in the IPL. If they do well, they ought to be considered too. So, you could see some surprise inclusions,” Joshi had said in his first interaction with the media as chief selector.
Soon after India’s ODI World Cup campaign ended after a loss to New Zealand in the semi-final at Old Trafford, questions were asked about Dhoni’s immediate and distant future. Those gained momentum after he was dropped from BCCI’s list of centrally contracted players.
TOI had first reported in July, ahead of the selectors picking the team for the tour of West Indies, that Dhoni would recuse himself from all selection but stop short of announcing retirement so that he can play the 2020 IPL.
“During this time, Team India would have all the possible opportunities to try out new contenders for the wicketkeeper’s role. In this one year, whoever comes across as most impressive will head to Australia. The same for MS. If he enjoys a thoroughly good IPL with Chennai Super Kings (CSK), why not?” those in the know had told this paper back then.
And therefore, it all boils down now to the fate of the IPL which is hanging in balance, thanks to the dreaded Covid-19 outbreak. Between July and now, Dhoni has not played any cricket, domestic or international. The wicketkeeper-batsman had reached Chennai early this month to start his IPL preparations, knowing very well what the tournament means to him this year.
Not just India, this year’s IPL was supposed to be a swansong of sorts for him at CSK – a franchise, backed by a cricket-mad city that has worshipped him for close to 13 years now, too. “Next year, there’ll be fresh auctions. This was going to be his last hurrah. Let’s pray the virus outbreak shows mercy on us, so that lives can return to normal,” say those who support the Jharkhand cricketer to the hilt.
But normalcy seems a privilege right now and should the 21-day lockdown in India be further increased because of the pandemic and the rapidly increasing cases even here, the IPL will surely be cancelled and the famous No. 7 jersey will probably be hung up forever. It will be ironic if that happens as the lasting image of a great cricketer would be of him walking back dejected after being run out in his last ODI at Old Trafford, just like he walked back despondently after being run out in his first match in India colours in Chittagong in 2004.