A day after including an under-performing Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the 15-man squad for the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka, Chief selector MSK Prasad made it clear that the former skipper is not an automatic choice in the team and hinted that the selectors are ready to take the tough call in case the 35-year old fails to perform.

With the next World Cup a couple of years away, the selectors showed that they are ready to give the youngsters the chance to prove themselves by including the likes of Manish Pandey, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel in the team while axing veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh. The left-handed batsman’s omission did not raise many eyebrows as he was not performing well with the bat but Dhoni’s selection certainly did as he is going through a similar phase.

The wicketkeeper-batsman had a pretty indifferent outing in 2016 as he managed to score only 278 runs in 13 matches at an average of 27.80. The 35-year old began 2017 with a stupendous 134-run knock against England but has not managed to replicate the same performance thereafter.  He had scored a match-winning half-century in the third ODI against West Indies in July but was severely criticised for his 114-ball 54 runs knock in the fourth game as India lost that game by 11 runs while chasing a modest target of 190.

As expected, he has faced severe criticism for his inconsistent performances and several former cricketers including Rahul Dravid has urged the team management to take a call on Dhoni’s role in the team. However,  the selectors are not yet ready to give up on the World Cup-winning captain but are ready to take the tough call if he fails to perform well.

Citing tennis legend Andre Agassi’s example, Prasad said: “Agassi’s real career only started after age 30. He won many tittles. Dhoni is not automatic choice but lets see how he goes.”

Recently, former Australia batsman Mike Hussey had also said that Dhoni should be allowed to retire on his terms and had backed him to do well despite age not being on his side.

“He has done so much for cricket in this country. If he believes he can play the next World Cup, who is to doubt him? He is a very modest and honest man. So he will be honest with himself. If he thinks that he cannot contribute to the team and help India win the World Cup, I don’t think he will be there. But if he believes in his heart that he can contribute to the team’s success and be a positive influence on the team, he deserves every chance of playing in the next World Cup,” Hussey had said.

“He knows his game and he looks after his body well. With the advancement in sports science, cricketers can play a lot longer. You can see the players performing well in their late 30s also,” he had added .