India chief selector MSK Prasad on Monday admitted that there were a few concerns regarding Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s batting form during the tour of England. The wicketkeeper-batsman was criticised for slowing the run rate during the ODI at Lord’s and was booed by the fans at the stadium. On being questioned about the incident, Prasad said that the team management had faith in Dhoni’s ability to regain form.
“There are two aspects about Dhoni: one is his wicketkeeping and the other is his batting. We have never had any doubts about his wicketkeeping. With regards to his batting, we were a bit worried about his form. But we also knew that if he played more, he would regain his form, and that is part of the any player’s career – there are dips in form and performances,” he said.
Prasad further added that the expectations on Dhoni are always high, even at this stage of his career. “As Virat said, and I agree, the expectations on Mahi are so high. We always associate Mahi with that brutal batsman of his younger days. And the moment he does not do that, some people feel his reflexes have declined,” he said.
“But the way he has prepared and the way he has played in the recent series, I am very happy. Players of that legendary stature don’t need to be told. They know what is expected of them. They will obviously feel bad in case they do not deliver what is expected of them,” Prasad added.
The former Indian wicketkeeper further said that Dhoni’s form in Australia and New Zealand has shown that he is starting to play his natural game. “The way Mahi has played in the last couple of series, in Australia and New Zealand, the message is very, very clear: now he has decided to play his natural way. This is the Dhoni that we know. We will be very happy if he can replicate those fearless knocks, using that brutal force he has within him. At some point, perhaps because of a shortage of match time, he might have been short of runs. But now that he is playing continuously, you can see his touch once again.”
Prasad further added: “Also, importantly, before India head to the World Cup, he will be playing the IPL. So he will be playing in 14-16 matches – all high-intensity games. That will only help him extend that form he has caught on the Australia and New Zealand tours. I am very happy with his batting.”
He further added: “Also, importantly, before India head to the World Cup, he will be playing the IPL. So he will be playing in 14-16 matches – all high-intensity games. That will only help him extend that form he has caught on the Australia and New Zealand tours. I am very happy with his batting.”
Speaking about the squad selection for the World Cup, Prasad pegged Dhoni as one of the potential match winners for team India. “Undoubtedly. He is going to be the most important guy for India in the World Cup: be it in his advisory role to Virat, be it with his wicketkeeping, be it with is on-field mentoring of young players.”
Prasad insisted that Dhoni was not dropped from T20I series against West Indies and Australia, but it was an effort by the team management to identify a second wicketkeeper. “He definitely was not dropped. I personally spoke to Dhoni and the team management. I told them we needed to identify the second wicketkeeper for the World Cup. So we wanted to give some game time to both Karthik and Rishabh, and that is why they played those six T20Is,” he said.
On being questioned whether Dhoni would consider retirement after the World Cup, Prasad said: “We have definitely not discussed this. Because prior to such a big tournament, I do not think it is wise to get distracted, since all energies are geared towards preparing well for the World Cup.”