IPL 2020 is starting to look pretty important for Indian cricket with the head coach Ravi Shastri saying it could help finalise the squad for the T20 World Cup later that year - and whether MS Dhoni would be part of it.
Speculation around Dhoni's future has been endless ever since the 50-over World Cup ended in July. He is 38 years old now and hasn't played any of India's matches since that semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
"It all depends on when he starts playing and how he is playing during the IPL," Shastri told IANS. "What are the other people doing with the wicketkeeping gloves or what is the form of those players as opposed to Dhoni's form. The IPL becomes a massive tournament because that could be the last tournament after which more or less your 15 is decided."
India have been grooming Rishabh Pant for a while now. He was even released from the Test squad that was playing against Bangladesh to take part in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament earlier this week so that he can stay in limited-overs mode.
Since the end of the World Cup, India have played three T20I series and one ODI series and Dhoni has not been a part of any of them. The chief selector MSK Prasad even went so far as to say that they were "moving on" when asked about the Dhoni question in October. However, both the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and Shastri himself have thrown their weight behind absent wicketkeeper-batsman saying he should be the only one who should decide when he wants his career to end.
It still hasn't stopped the speculation around Dhoni, who was seen in practicing at the nets with the Jharkhand team recently. Shastri suggested that with the IPL, which starts in March, set to be the final T20 tournament for India players before the World Cup in October, performances there could help firm up the squad that will go to Australia.
"There might be one player who might be there and thereabouts in case of an injury or whatever. But your team I would say would be known after the IPL. What I would say is rather than speculating of who is where, wait for the IPL to get over and then you are in a position to take a call on who are the best 17 in the country."