Why are people in a hurry to see MS Dhoni off, asks Ravi Shastri

Rohit Sharma facepalmed after another DRS howler during Bangladesh’s run-chase and the fans at Feroz Shah Kotla started to jeer Rishabh Pant with ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ chants. Never mind that it was Pant’s home ground, but every time he fails, the clamour to bring back MS Dhoni grows in the stands and on social media. The Indian Express, however, understands that if the former India captain wants to return to the international fold, he will have to play domestic cricket first.

“Yes, if he (Dhoni) wants to make himself available for the Indian team, he must play domestic cricket. Until and unless he is playing domestic cricket, he won’t be considered,” sources told this paper.

Dhoni hasn’t played any cricket after the World Cup and as chief selector MSK Prasad told the other day, they were “moving on”, picking Pant as his successor and Sanju Samson as Pant’s back-up. Then again, Dhoni hasn’t called time on his career yet. According to Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) secretary Sanjay Sahay, the 38-year-old is coming to the JSCA Stadium regularly but he hasn’t approached the state body about playing domestic cricket.

“He is coming (here) daily. He goes to the gym, plays tennis, but I don’t know if he wants to play domestic cricket this season,” Sahay told The Indian Express. The Jharkhand U-19 squad will have a camp from Thursday. Asked if Dhoni might turn up for a few hits at the nets, Sahay said: “I don’t have any information.”

Dhoni carried a back niggle to the World Cup that got aggravated during the tournament. He also picked up a wrist injury. It’s not known whether he has returned to full fitness. He isn’t a part of the Jharkhand squad for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, commencing on November 8. And since his Test retirement in December 2014, Dhoni hasn’t played the Ranji Trophy. “It’s his call. If he wants to play, he can join the squad whenever he likes,” the JSCA secretary said.

India’s next white-ball assignment is in December, when West Indies would be here for three T20 internationals and as many ODIs. And according to sources, Dhoni won’t be considered for that series as well, irrespective of Pant’s performance in the ongoing matches against Bangladesh.

“Retirement is his decision. But as long as a player is active, he has a chance to play for India. But he will have to take the domestic route to make an international comeback,” the source said. Meanwhile, Pant didn’t have a good game at Kotla on Sunday. He was involved in a mix-up that resulted in Shikhar Dhawan’s run-out. The ‘keeper-batsman had called for the second run, but changed his mind after realising that he misjudged it.

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Then, in the third ball of the 10th over during Bangladesh’s run-chase, India didn’t review, when Yuzvendra Chahal’s leg-before appeal against Mushfiqur Rahim was turned down by on-field umpire Nitin Menon. Rahim would have been out had India reviewed and Pant, as the ‘keeper, probably should have made the call. Rahim was on six then. He went on to score 60 not out off 43 balls to help secure Bangladesh’s first-ever T20I victory against India.

In the final ball of the same over, Pant apparently asked Rohit to go upstairs after a caught behind appeal against Soumya Sarkar was negated. Replays didn’t pick any spike and India lost their review. The Kotla crowd made their displeasure known. Pant was brutally trolled on social media as well.

Support for Pant

Part of the diatribe was also because of Dhoni success with DRS calls. Since its official launch in 2009, the DRS has undergone numerous modifications. But one thing remained constant — Dhoni’s mastery over it. With time, it has even acquired a parallel acronym — Dhoni Review System.

“It’s priceless. I saw a stat that 95 per cent of the appeals that he (Dhoni) has made in his career have been successful. As a captain, I have no sort of extra thinking as far as DRS is concerned. He is one voice, if he tells me it’s outside the line or it is missing, the decision stands there. It’s not left up to doubt or any further debate from there on,” Virat Kohli had said of Dhoni. It would be unfair to expect Pant, who is 22 years of age and has just one full international season under his belt, to get a near-perfect record in DRS straight away. Not surprisingly, India’s stand-in captain came to his young ‘keeper’s defence after the Bangladesh loss.

“Of course, Rishabh is young and he will need time to understand. It’s too soon to judge whether he can make those decisions. Plus, the bowlers as well. It’s a combination when the captain is not in the right position to make that decision,” Rohit said at the post-match conference.

Former India wicketkeeper Kiran More attributed Dhoni’s success to his maturity and his ability to judge the line of the ball better than most keepers. “Dhoni is smart, and a great judge of line and length. So, he can make those decisions correctly, whether the ball was going down the leg, or was it too high…things like that. By the time DRS was introduced in international cricket, Dhoni was already the Indian captain. So, he also had the advantage of experience behind him,” More told The Indian Express.

Even as he heaped praise on the ex-India captain, More was more guarded in his criticism against Pant. “This guy is so inexperienced. Give him time. You can’t hold these things against him. He is working hard to cement his place in this team. I really think it’s unfair to suggest that India lost the match because of those two faulty DRS calls made by Pant. On the contrary, I think it’s our batting that has let us down. For the time being, leave that kid alone,” More added.

As Prasad had said after the team selection meeting on October 24, Pant would be given a long rope. He also spoke about having a back-up in Samson. Prasad’s comments had come on the heels of his meeting with BCCI president Sourav Ganguly. Incidentally, Ganguly, too, had to return to domestic cricket after he was dropped from the Test squad in 2006. The former India captain made a roaring comeback.