MUMBAI (Reuters) – The future of long-serving wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni and finding a solution to the number four batting conundrum will top the agenda when India’s selectors meet in Mumbai on Sunday to pick the squads for the team’s tour of West Indies.
Dhoni, who turned 38 this month during the Cricket World Cup, enjoys cult status in the cricket-mad country after he captained the side to the World Twenty20 title in 2007 and their second 50-over World Cup title in 2011 at home.
The veteran of 350 one-dayers, however, has been the subject of intense speculation on his retirement from international cricket over the past few days since India’s semi-final exit from the World Cup.
Widely considered as the best ‘finisher’ in contemporary cricket, Dhoni has recently struggled to start his innings while his ability to put bowlers to the sword at the end has also been on the wane.
Dhoni’s glovework, however, still remains top class and questions have been raised by former cricketers, pundits and local media if it was the right time for him to step away and help India groom his successor.
The next 50-over World Cup is still four years away but the World Twenty20 will be held in 2020, leaving chief selector MSK Prasad and his colleagues to plan for the tournament in Australia.
Dhoni, who quit playing tests at the end of 2014, has not provided even a hint of what his plans are but he enjoys unwavering support from India captain Virat Kohli who has publicly backed him on numerous occasions in the past.
India will play three T20s, three ODIs and two tests in the Caribbean and the tour will provide the opportunity for the selectors to test the fringe players while resting some who play all three formats for the team.
The team have also failed to nail down the number four batting position in the limited overs sides, something that hurt them during the World Cup, and a new set of batsmen are expected to audition for the spot.
All-rounder Vijay Shankar, who was initially given the nod, left the World Cup through injury while KL Rahul had to move up to open the innings when Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out.
India’s test wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, the favourite to fill in Dhoni’s shoes in the limited overs formats, slotted into the role during the latter stages of the World Cup, while Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill are also in the mix.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)