New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni was on Thursday dropped from the BCCI's list of centrally contracted players, raising fresh doubts on the future of the former India captain who has not played since the World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand last year.
The BCCI announced the central contracts for the period of October 2019 to September 2020. Dhoni was in the A category, which fetches a player Rs 5 crore, until last year.
Skipper Virat Kohli, his white-ball deputy Rohit Sharma and top pacer Jasprit Bumrah were retained in the highest A+ bracket of Rs 7 crore. Among others, batsman K L Rahul has been promoted from B grade to A.
Dhoni's contract not being renewed is not exactly a surprise as he has not played a competitive game since that World Cup semifinal on July 9. He has been on an sabbatical and has refused to divulge his future plans.
Head coach Ravi Shastri had recently said that Dhoni may soon end his ODI career but could be in contention for a spot in the T20 World Cup squad provided he does well in the IPL.
Test opener Mayank Agarwal, who has done well since making his debut during the tour of Australia in 2018-19, has been included in the list in Grade B, which also features Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal along with two others.
Pacer Navdeep Saini and T20 specialist Washington Sundar are new entrants in Grade C alongside Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur.
The dropped list also includes the retired Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik.
Outgoing chief selector MSK Prasad has already made his stance clear on Dhoni, saying the World Cup-winning captain can only be selected again on the basis of performances.
While Dhoni has not revealed anything about his future, he is very much expected to captain Chennai Super Kings in the 2020 IPL.
Since the World Cup, he has missed the tour of the West Indies and the home series against South Africa, Bangladesh, the West Indies and the ongoing one against Australia.
One of the biggest names in Indian cricket, Dhoni led India to two world titles the 2007 World T20 in South Africa and the 2011 ODI World Cup at home.
The veteran has played 90 Tests, 350 ODIs and 98 T20 Internationals for India, accumulating over 17,000 runs and effecting a staggering 829 dismissals behind the stumps.
BCCI Central Contracts for October 2019 to September 2020:
Grade A+: Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
Grade A: Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, K L Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Rishabh Pant.
Grade B: Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal.
Grade C: Kedar Jadhav, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Hanuma Vihari, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's omission from the central contracts list was imminent and he was duly informed before the national selection committee finalised the names, a top BCCI official told PTI on Thursday.
If the former skipper makes it to the T20 squad sometime this year, he might be re-inducted on a pro-rata basis even though chances of that are remote.
The 38-year-old double World Cup-winning former India captain's omission from the list was not unexpected as he has not played any international cricket for over six months now.
“Let me clarify that one of the top-most BCCI office-bearers spoke to MS and told him about how they are going about in the central contracts. He was clearly told that since he hasn't played any game in the said period (September 2019 till date), he cannot be included for the time being,” the official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
Asked who among BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah and CEO Rahul Johri spoke to Dhoni, the official refused to divulge.
“Let's not get into who spoke. The fact is that a player of his stature needs to be told that he is not being awarded a central contract for the time being and it was done in an appropriate manner,” he said.
However, the official said that if Dhoni makes it to the World T20 team in Australia (October 2020, after current contracts' duration ends) or even before that, he can be included on a pro-rata basis.
“There will be an Asia Cup T20 (likely to be shifted from Pakistan) and if Dhoni plays a certain number of matches, he will be automatically included. It's not like he has been dumped for good. It's just that he doesn't qualify because he has not played,” the official said.
The existing rule for awarding central contracts is that a player needs to compete in a minimum of three Tests or eight ODIs to qualify. He can also get in by playing a stipulated number of T20 games (depending on the season when there are more T20s).
“Like Washington Sundar has played 21 T20 Internationals and at least more than 10 in the current season and with more T20s this year, he got a contract. Similarly, Wriddhiman (Saha) had a group C contract last year when he was injured.
“To get into group B, currently, you need to play three Tests and he fulfilled the criteria during the home season. Same for Mayank Agarwal. That's how it works,” the official explained.
“If Prithvi Shaw is selected in the Indian team and plays just one more Test, he will get a Grade B contract on pro-rata basis,” he added.
Asked if Dhoni might announce ODI retirement after this development, the official was evasive.
“That is something only Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows and no one else,” he said....