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No Dhoni for Jharkhand in Vijay Hazare knockouts

MS Dhoni comes forward to drive Associated Press

MS Dhoni will not take part in Jharkhand's knockout matches for the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018-19.

Jharkhand will play their quarter-final against Maharashtra at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Monday, and Dhoni wasn't present at the first nets the team had, at the adjoining NCA ground, on Saturday. Team members that ESPNcricinfo spoke to on Saturday said they weren't expecting Dhoni to join the squad.

Jharkhand coach Rajiv Kumar said that he had not received any official word about Dhoni joining, but in his opinion, Dhoni wouldn't have wanted to disturb the team's combination, especially since he would have been able to play only one match.

"He has to go to Hyderabad on October 16 to report for the ODI series," Kumar said. "Maybe he will come for a day, I don't know yet what his plan is, but so far, he is not coming. But it may be possible. You know he takes his own decisions. He is saying the boys are doing well, so there is no point coming for just one game and taking somebody's place."

Jharkhand topped Group C with 32 points from nine matches, to qualify.

The semi-finals are scheduled for October 17 and 18, meaning Dhoni would not have been able to take part even if Jharkhand win their match against Maharashtra.

It is understood that Dhoni linking up with the Jharkhand team in Chennai was spoken of before he left for the Asia Cup. The Asia Cup concluded on September 28, with India beating Bangladesh in the final. Jharkhand had four league games remaining in Group C after that, with the first one on October 1. They won three of the games, with one abandoned without a ball bowled. Dhoni, however, eventually didn't join the team.

At the press conference after the Indian ODI side had been announced, chief selector MSK Prasad had said that Dhoni would be playing in the Vijay Hazare quarter-final.

Dhoni's decision is rendered more curious given his recent struggles in limited-overs cricket, and questions beginning to be asked about whether he is the right man to be the first-choice wicketkeeper in the 2019 World Cup. In the Asia Cup, he batted four times, scoring 77 runs with an average of 19.25 and a strike rate of 62.09. Overall in 2018, he has batted 10 times in 15 matches, for an average of 28.12 and a strike rate of 67.36. Dhoni's last first-class match was in the Irani Trophy over a decade ago, while his last List-A game for Jharkhand was in the 2017-18 Vijay Hazare Trophy semi-final against Bengal.

However, while Dhoni has decided to stay away, Rohit Sharma will be part of the Mumbai XI that takes on Bihar in the first quarter-final on Sunday. Rohit, who also didn't join the Mumbai squad during the league stages, has flown down to be part of the first knockout match. A Mumbai team spokesperson confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that if the Indian ODI team had asked players to report by October 16, Rohit would also miss any subsequent knockout matches.