India players who have chosen to skip the Ranji Trophy should not be criticised for their "individual preferences", MS Dhoni has said. Dhoni said it was important for players to preserve themselves, given the packed calendar.
"It is important to safeguard players," Dhoni said on Saturday, during the launch of a coffee-table book on N Srinivasan, the former BCCI president. "We have to make the domestic circuit slightly less challenging [in terms of the itinerary] for the individual. Moreover, it is important to be not too critical of T20 cricket and also individual preferences. Individual preferences should not be criticised."
A number of high-profile cricketers have given the Ranji Trophy a miss this season. Shikhar Dhawan, who was dropped from India's Test side after their tour of England, has not featured for Delhi. Ambati Rayudu, who is part of India's ODI squad, announced his retirement from first-class cricket in November, in order to focus on limited-overs cricket ahead of a World Cup year.
Dhoni himself has drawn criticism for not playing for Jharkhand - he retired from Test cricket in December 2014, but the former India captain Sunil Gavaskar felt he could have played the Ranji Trophy to stay in rhythm during a long break between limited-overs assignments for India.
"He [Dhoni] didn't play the T20Is against Australia, before that he didn't play the West Indies Tests, and then he is not playing the Test series against Australia," Gavaskar said. "So, he last played in October and will next play in January, which is a huge gap. But if he doesn't do well on tours of Australia and New Zealand, then there will be more questions asked on his place in the World Cup.
"As you grow older and if there is a gap in your [competitive] cricket, your reflexes will slow down. If you play any form of cricket at the domestic level, you get an opportunity to play long innings, which serves as a good practice for you."
Gautam Gambhir, who retired from all forms of cricket earlier this month, has also criticised big-name Delhi players who don't make themselves available for domestic cricket.
"If you don't care about Delhi cricket, which has given you the platform to go out there and fulfil your dream, and you don't want to commit yourself to that state, that state doesn't need you," he told ESPNcricinfo. "That is what I'm very clear about, and that is why I've always told the selectors [not to pick those players]. Sometimes selectors do not have the spine to do it."