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Time M S Dhoni takes a break

Last updated on: August 23, 2010 12:19 IST

Man of Steel (MS) Dhoni!

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Harish Kotian says it is important that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's workload be reduced to keep him in best shape for next year's World Cup.

The initials M S D of India's captain should read Man of Steel Dhoni! After all, few players in contemporary cricket have endured the rigours of the game as well as he has.

Since making his international debut in December 2004, the wicketkeeper-batsman has played non-stop cricket. And after being named India captain, starting with the Twenty20 format in 2007, he's featured in almost every Test, ODI, T20 or Indian Premier League match. As of August 23, he already has 63 playing days against his name in 2010 -- the most by players in the Indian team this year. For the record he's played 6 Tests (5 days), 15 ODIs, 5 T20s and 13 IPL matches since January.

Unlike his other team-mates, Mahendra Singh Dhoni cannot afford to relax even a minute when on the field. Being the captain of the side, he has to constantly evolve strategy while keeping wickets and, at the same time, is expected to play a big role with the bat.

On the ongoing tour of Sri Lanka, it appears he is struggling with injury to his back and fingers on his right hand, yet he soldiers on relentlessly, forcibly or by choice, you may never know.

Thus, it is baffling that despite having the luxury of Dinesh Karthik in the squad in the ongoing tri-series he continues in the keeper's role.

Photographs: Reuters


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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BCCI must work out a schedule for their top stars

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In the coming months, with a packed calendar leading up to next year's World Cup, Dhoni will have hardly any time to spend at home or with his wife Sakshi. That he hurriedly got married was perhaps because he knew he would be on India duty for the next 12 months or so.

It is imperative that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) works out a schedule for their top stars, including Dhoni, to prevent burnout. A good example would be that of Sachin Tendulkar, who opted out of not-so important ODI series like the Asia Cup and tri-series in Sri Lanka to rest and prepare for important tournaments.

Dhoni has been a constant factor in the Indian team over the last 12 months, even as others, mostly the fast bowlers, around him have come a cropper due to injuries. While he himself admits that doodh (milk) is the secret of his energy, it may not be long before it is exhausted. It is hard to imagine him being ruled out of an important tournament like the 2011 World Cup because of injury or fatigue. And that is something coach Gary Kirsten and the selectors must guard against.

And the first task in that direction would be relieving him from wicketkeeping duty in meaningless tournaments, like the ongoing tri-series, and handing the gloves to Karthik.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni with his wife Sakshi

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'Dhoni should get a complete break for a couple of weeks'

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Former India wicketkeeper and chairman of selectors Kiran More says Dhoni should take a complete break and rest for a few weeks.

"It is a big concern as far as Dhoni's fitness is concerned, because we have seen him struggle with his back or fingers. He should get a complete break for a couple of weeks so that he can recover from the small niggles that he is having and be fully fit for the season ahead," More told rediff.com.

He refused to accept the belief that keeping wickets is more stressful than fielding.

"It is one and same thing whether he is keeping wickets or fielding in the outfield. Even when you are on the field the ball comes to you; so it is the same when you are fielding and you have to focus on every ball like a wicketkeeper. So just taking off the gloves is not the solution; you should give him a proper break, because a lot of important tournaments are coming like Australia in India, India's tour to South Africa and then the World Cup."


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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'He must opt out of a few matches in the Champions League'

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The former India wicketkeeper and chairman of selectors feels Dhoni should play only in important tournaments.

"I think any area, whether you bowl, bat, field or keep wickets, it is always tough. He has got a few injuries on his fingers which you have seen in recent matches. He is a sensible person, a tough fighter, but somebody has to come forward and advise him to take a break. The calendar is too crowded, so there is no time to rest. Taking a break is the only solution.

"I think he must opt out of a few matches in the Champions League and also skip the One-Day series against New Zealand. Otherwise, he will have no time to take a break ahead of the busy season ahead," he added.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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'He has never shied away from playing for his country'

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Ajit Wadekar, a former India captain and coach, said it will be hard to ask someone as committed as Dhoni to rest for a few matches.

"He is keen as ever despite all the injuries to his fingers or his back. It would be hard to tell him to take a break because he wants to lead his team in every match that they play. He is a guiding force for the team and wants to set an example as the captain.

Wadekar also stressed that India needs to come up with a plan to make sure Dhoni is fully fit by the time World Cup arrives next February.

"He works hard on his fitness, but despite that there are some worries and we should plan something to ensure he stays fit for next year's World Cup," he said.

"But hats off to Dhoni for the consistency he has shown over the years despite a hectic schedule. He has never shied away from playing for his country and it has been rare to see him skip matches due to fitness issues."

Wadekar said the decision whether to keep wickets or not must be left to Dhoni.

"But I personally feel he is more comfortable with the gloves on. He is one of the best wicketkeepers in the world and that never affects his captaincy or his batting."


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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Indian team's busy schedule for the next 12 months

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Check out Dhoni's hectic schedule for the next 12 months:

Straight after the Sri Lanka series, that ends on August 28, Dhoni heads to South Africa to lead Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament, from September 10-26.

And if Chennai make it to the final of the tournament, the 29-year-old will hardly have four days' rest before leading India in the first of two Tests against Australia. The series, between October 1 to 24 also involves three One Day Internationals.

And ten days after that series, the New Zealanders come knocking for a three-Test series followed by five One-Day Internationals between November 4 and December 10.

It is baffling that Team India have just five days to prepare or recuperate before they head to South Africa for a 40-day tour involving three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 International from December 16 to January 23, 2011.

They then get a well-deserved 25-day rest before the all-important World Cup at home begins on February 19. However, if the BCCI decides to have a two-week camp ahead of the mega event then the respite will be shorter.

The World Cup is scheduled to end on April 2 and within a week the fourth season of the Indian Premier League gets underway. The addition of two more franchises means the players will have to play more matches than the previous three seasons. The last three seasons saw the teams play each other on a home and away basis for a total of 59 matches, including the semi-finals and final. And if that same format is followed for IPL-4 we could witness 94 matches, which means that every team will play a minimum 18 matches and two more if they make it to the final.

No sooner the IPL is over the players will start packing their bags for the Caribbean for a long tour, comprising of four Tests and five ODIs in April-May 2011.

Only in June 2011 will the team get a month's break before leaving for the United Kingdom on a three-month tour. They will play England in a long series comprising of four Test matches, five one-day Internationals and an international Twenty20 between July and September next year.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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