The former captain of the Indian ODI team is turning 36 next month. With him already having given up captaincy to the rising Virat Kohli, it is not out of course to think about his place in the team for the 2019 World Cup. His wicketkeeping skills cannot be questioned to date as they are still as lightening sharp as they were probably 5 years ago. But his performance as a batsman can be put under the scanner when it comes to the last two years.
From the beginning of 2016, Dhoni has scored just 510 runs in 21 matches with an average of 34 which is far below his all-time average of 51. His strike rate in the death overs has also fallen. He has no doubt performed on some occasions where the team needed a lower order batsman to win them the match. But similarly, there have also been instances of him failing to act as an anchor for the lower order as we saw in the recent Champions Trophy final.
Here we are not criticizing anyone’s ability but trying to question whether the Indian veteran still deserves a place in the ODI side or do we have better replacements from the domestic circuit? Similar questions over Sachin arrived when he was nearing the end of his career and comparison were being made against Kohli replacing him. We saw how that turned out as we got the top ranked ODI batsman playing at number 3 for our side. Let’s take a look on who could be the possible replacements for MS Dhoni for the approaching 2019 World Cup.
Just 19 years of age, this young talent from Uttarakhand was discovered and nurtured under the guidance of Dravid in the U-19 Indian team. He first came into the limelight after some of his sparkling performances in the IPL 2017 for the Delhi Daredevils side. Though the DD could not qualify for the semis, this young lad received quite a lot of praises for his skills and potential.
Considering the other candidates for the spot he is very inexperienced to pitch him right into the first team. He has faced only 3 balls in international cricket that too in a T20I and has not been capped for an ODI debut yet. But there are still 2 years to the all-important competition and given the right amount of attention, he could possibly turn into something worthwhile for the team in the future. Not to forget, the U-19 team is from where we got our current captain from.
Debuting before Dhoni in the ODI side is some credential Parthiv Patel holds. Though he has had his chances in the team for the last decade on some occasions in Tests, his presence in the ODI team has been very rare. The last ODI he played was 5 years ago and he hasn’t been able to make his mark since. He is still in a confrontation with Wriddhiman Saha as the full-time Test keeper after Dhoni’s retirement.
If looking for experience, the Indian side would not be able to find anyone over Parthiv as he has close to 10000 first class runs which are more than any other contender for this post. But at the same time, his age could be the matter of concern while picking him for the World Cup side as he would be 34 by the time. He has had his whole career under the shadow of Dhoni’s reign as the wicketkeeper in the first-team but it could end in a different fashion.
Robin did not start his career as a full-time wicketkeeper but was lead up to the job when Kolkata Knight Riders required him. He has been a loyal player at the KKR playing well for over 5 seasons now. The IPL 2017 saw him in some of his greatest forms when he scored 3 consecutive fifties which is quite a feat in T20 cricket.
Being 31 years of age, he has good experience in both batting and keeping in the first class for Karnataka. Also, he gained some valuable experience being in and out of the team from 2010 to 2015. Not playing as a wicketkeeper then, there could be a question arising on his keeping abilities in an ODI. Better full-time keepers might available for the Indian side but his batting abilities are something that could be valuable for the Indian team in the World Cup.
The player with the most ODI experience in the list, Dinesh Karthik too holds some laudable credentials to replace Dhoni off the team. Having 7 fifties to his name in the ODI as well as in the Tests is what makes him stand out in terms of pure statistics. Speaking of first class too, 25 centuries and 40 fifties make him stand just second to Parthiv Patel.
The key factor in deciding his future in the team will be the fact that he was not been trusted as the full-time Test keeper after Dhoni’s retirement. In fact, he has not been included in the Test side for over 7 years. Though proving his worth, he has not been on the top of the selectors’ list.
The top most contender for the spot of the ODI first team wicketkeeper-batsman would be the Kings XI wicketkeeper, Wriddhiman Saha. With his average of close to 45 in the first class, he was tried for some matches when Dhoni was not available. But this has not been full time. He made his Test debut in 2010 and after Dhoni’s retirement has been a frequent member of the side. Often being chosen over Kartik and Parthiv has helped Saha improve his performance on the international circuit.
Having played 37 Test innings he averages at 33 which is not great but decent for a number 7 player. His performance as a wicketkeeper for KXIP was also praised by many along with his batting skills. If there comes a situation of dropping Dhoni off the ODI team, Saha could be the selector’s first choice.