By Debayan Mukherjee
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has called time on his international career, would have played the T20 World Cup had it happened in 2020, feels his childhood coach Keshav Banerjee.
Dhoni quit international cricket on Saturday, thus drawing curtains on an illustrious, trophy-laden career.
The decision ended speculation around the international future of the enigmatic 39-year-old, who quit Test cricket in 2014 and had not featured for India since the side’s semi-final exit at the ODI World Cup in July last year.
“Had it (T20 World Cup) happened this year, he would have played. This is what I feel,” Banerjee, who has known Dhoni since his school days, told IANS over the phone from Dhoni’s hometown in Ranchi.
“He would have taken his decision after the World Cup. See it is difficult to read his mind, but if you ask me he would have played,” he said.
The announcement from Dhoni came a day after he joined his Chennai Super kings teammates in Chennai ahead of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) edition set to be played in the UAE from September 19.
The 2020 T20 World Cup — which was originally slated to be played in October-November this year — had to be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one knows his mind. He has always been an introvert. When he was in Ranchi, I did speak to him several times but we never talked cricket. When Mahi is at home, he does not want to talk cricket,” said Banerjee when asked about Dhoni’s decision.
“It is a loss for Indian cricket for the moment. Till the team does not get a reliable wicketkeeper, it will be difficult. These are big shoes to fill,” he opined.
“I have known him for 28 years. I have seen him starting from his school days when he used to keep wickets. This is definitely an emotional day for me. He knows the rigours of international cricket and his decision is always wise. It also has a surprise element, his decision and he is the best judge,” he added.
Banerjee also said now Dhoni can lead CSK in the IPL with a free mind.
“Now he can focus more on IPL and play freely. There was always so much talk about him performing well in the IPL to return to the Indian team.”
Dhoni turned up for the country in 350 ODIs, 90 Tests and 98 T20Is while affecting a staggering 829 dismissals behind the stumps.
One of the most admired and respected cricketers, Dhoni is also among the most successful captains in world cricket. It was under his leadership that India lifted the World Cup trophy in 2011 after having led India to triumph in the World T20 in its maiden edition of the tournament held in 2007 in South Africa. With India winning the Champions Trophy in 2013 in England, Dhoni became the first and is still the only captain till date to have won all three ICC Trophies.
While his heroics in the limited-overs formats are well documented, it was also under his leadership that India became the No. 1 Test side in 2009 and the team stayed at the top for over 600 days. He has led India to victory in 21 home Test matches, the most by an Indian captain.