MS Dhoni‘s tremendous fan following makes him one of India’s most loved cricketers, but the fanaticism comes in extremes, as experienced by former India opener Aakash Chopra, who had to face intense flak after excluding the former captain from his squad prediction.
Last month, Chopra, a popular cricket expert in India with over three million Twitter followers, picked his 14-member squad for India’s T20 World Cup campaign this year, excluding Dhoni from his list. And earlier this week, in a chat with ex-India speedster Ajit Agarkar on his YouTube channel, Chopra opened up about the backlash that followed his exclusion of the wicketkeeper-batsman.
“I had to close social media for a few days,” said Chopra. “People abused me so much, it kept on coming, it reached my home, they abused the kids as well. I said, ‘Please pardon me guys, what happened has happened’.”
Dhoni, who hasn’t played a single competitive match since India’s narrow loss to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, was expected to make his long-awaited return in the IPL. However, most mainstream forms of cricket is currently on hold due to Covid-19, and the IPL has been postponed indefinitely, ensuring Dhoni’s sabbatical has extended further.
Chopra said that he aligned with Agarkar’s point of view on Dhoni’s future. Agarkar has been critical of Dhoni’s waning powers on public platforms, receiving copious backlash for his views. In his chat with Chopra, Agarkar said that, while the call to retire is entirely Dhoni’s, he feels it is unlikely that the iconic captain returns to the Indian fold.
“Retiring or not retiring is MS Dhoni’s call,” Agarkar said. “To select or to not select is selectors’ call if he fits in their plan. I don’t know, for the player who hasn’t played for a year, for me it will be difficult. Don’t know about the communication between MS Dhoni and team management or with the selectors.”