India wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni fuelled retirement speculation on Tuesday after sharing his dream of becoming a painter, although his ambitions for a career change seemed far from serious.
The 37-year-old Dhoni, who is England-bound for the World Cup starting next week, displayed a few of what he said were his paintings in a video posted online on Monday.
“I wanted to share a secret with all of you. Right from when I was a kid I always wanted to become an artist,” Dhoni said in the video.
“So decided I have played a lot of cricket and it’s time for me to take up what I really wanted to become. And I started getting into painting.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman said that he would soon hold an art exhibition as he wants to pursue his painting career “very seriously”.
But the paintings that he showed off looked suspiciously childlike, prompting suggestions from some that the father of a four-year-old daughter may be pulling some legs.
Dhoni, who led India to the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup title in 2007 and then the 50-over crown in 2011, is widely expected to call it quits after this edition of cricket’s marquee event.
Dhoni, who retired from Tests in 2014, has amassed 10,500 one-day runs from 341 matches including 10 centuries and 71 fifties.
The Virat Kohli-led India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa on June 5 in Southampton. And heading into the World Cup, India coach Ravi Shastri feels that Dhoni’s impact will be massive.
“You do not need to tell him anything, he’s someone who’ll be right there, doing exactly what he does,” Shastri said in the pre-departure press conference when asked about Dhoni’s role in the mega event.
“His communication with Virat has been fantastic. You know, as a keeper he’s shown over the years that there’s no one better than him in this format of the game. Not just when it comes to taking catches but inflicting those run-outs, those stumpings. Those little moments in the game that can change the game on its head. There’s no one better than him and what was great to see was the way he was moving in the IPL, especially when he was batting. The footwork, the power with which he was hitting his shots. He will be a big player in this World Cup,” said Shastri.
The World Cup is a big stage. A challenging format where 10 strong teams lock horns against each other to grab hold of the coveted trophy. It’s natural that the pressure will be huge.
While captain Kohli stressed on the importance of handling pressure and maintaining intensity, Shastri believed that the team enjoying themselves would also be key.
“As far as this tournament is concerned, it’s an opportunity,” Shastri explained.
“If you look at this team, what they have done over those (last) five years, they know they have played brilliant cricket. And as Virat said, it’s about striving for that consistency. And not playing any differently just because it’s a World Cup. World Cup might be a stage but that stage needs to be enjoyed. The most important thing is to get out there and enjoy the World Cup. If you play to potential, the cup might be here.”
With every team playing against every team in the group stage with top four making it to the semis in a redux of 1992 format, Shastri feels that it’s going to be a very challenging tournament.