Is Dhoni contemplating retirement from ODIs?

Dhoni's struggle with the bat in the ODIs isn't helping his case

dhoni-england-ap Dhoni during a nets session at Headingley Carnegie, in Leeds, ahead of the third ODI between India and England | AP

It was Team India's first ODI bilateral series loss under Virat Kohli. This, after India had defeated England 2-1 in the T20I series earlier on the tour, and won the first ODI convincingly by eight wickets. Then came the crushing losses in the second and third ODIs—by 86 runs and eight wickets respectively.

But what caught the attention of the cricket fans was Mahendra Singh Dhoni seeking the match ball from the umpires at the end of the third ODI match, while the players were walking back to the pavilion. The internet broke, with netizens speculating on Dhoni's possible retirement from ODIs. He is known to collect stumps as souvenirs, and he might have collected the ball as a souvenir for having crossed 10,000 ODI runs and completed 300 catches during the series. But social media is abuzz with speculations on Dhoni's ODI career.

The former Team India skipper had announced a shock retirement from Tests in 2014 midway through the tour of Australia. In the four Test match series, India had lost two Tests and drawn the third, when Dhoni decided to call it a day.

With less than a year to go for the ICC World Cup 2019, it would be another shocker for Team India if Dhoni, 37, decides to retire. In 321 ODIs, Dhoni has scored 10,046 runs at an average of 51.25. He has 10 centuries and 67 fifties to his name. Though the wicketkeeper has been attracting a lot of flak of late for his slow batting, the management and skipper Virat Kohli have shown great faith in him. Dhoni's sudden departure might put immense pressure on the other wicketkeeper-batsmen waiting in the wings—Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant—ahead of the World Cup next year.

But Dhoni's struggle with the bat isn't helping his case either. In the recently concluded ODI series against England, coming in at number 5 and 6, he scored 37 (59 balls) and 42 (66), with only six boundaries in all. Dhoni didn't had to bat in the first match at Nottingham since the top three—Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli—finished it off, with Sharma scoring a magnificent 137*. In fact, in the second match at Lord's, Dhoni was booed by the crowd for his inability to keep the scoreboard ticking. India's batting great Sunil Gavaskar said Dhoni's innings reminded him of his own infamous 174-ball 36 against the same opposition at the same venue during the 1975 World Cup.

Legendary Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and former cricketers like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have all expressed concern with Dhoni's form and how it is affecting the team.

The constant chopping and changing hasn't allowed the Indian middle order to settle down. This coupled with Dhoni's ultra-slow batting has put Team India on the back foot more often than not, especially when the top three fail to fire. In the last three years, the top order has scored almost 60 per cent of the runs in successful chases.

India's middle-order woes in the series will put the focus back on the Yo-Yo fitness test again. In-form middle order batsman Ambati Rayudu was dropped from the squad from the England tour because he failed to achieve the benchmark. The decision had attracted a lot of criticism, as had the axing of Ajinkya Rahane.