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When will Dhoni retire... and four other debates we are (not) missing

Lockdown has killed pub rants, but let's remember that the most discussed topics in cricket were sort of a drag anyway

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Ravi Shastri had said the IPL would be critical in determining whether MS Dhoni plays the T20 World Cup. Well...

Is that jersey and those gloves (not) going to hang any time soon?  •  BCCI

It has been a tough few weeks for fans of the general hum and burble of normal life. Not only is there no live cricket to watch, there is none of the attendant pot-stirring. Working from home has killed water-cooler chit-chat, lockdown means you can't pop to the pub for a rant, and even social media is strangely listless now that David Warner's super-cuddly TikTok account is the prime generator of content. But that also means you might have forgotten how repetitive some of those debates were. Here we reprise five recent classics, as a fleeting reminder of things you no longer have to waste your time thinking about.
England's Test top order
Have England got any Test-quality openers? Can you name a decent batsman the county system has produced since Joe Root/Alastair Cook/WG Grace? Why are first-class techniques so flimsy that keeping out an orange bowled by an arthritic pensioner is beyond most players? (And no, that's not a jibe at Darren Stevens.) England's attempts to live up to the glorious recent past of Cook-Strauss-Trott-Pietersen-Bell have sometimes felt about as convincing as "Wee Britain" in Arrested Development, and there have been recurring problems - from Cook's succession of failed opening partners (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived, etc) to Root shuttling between Nos. 3 and 4 as if trying to cover both. True, Rory Burns looks like he might have the minerals, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley enjoyed success in South Africa, and Ollie Pope has emerged as a classy operator. But while Joe "Flirty 30" Denly is still in the frame, don't expect the chuntering to stop.
Australia's team culture
We know there's only one setting that matters on the Justin Langer Elite-o-meter. So when the current Australia side set out to do something, they are going to gosh-darn Langer the socks off it. That means offering to shake hands at the toss, coming up with a "players' pact", and always, always being able to tell the difference between abuse and banter. No more walking The Line, no more sledging (unless it's banter). As The Test proves beyond doubt, Langer loves "baaanter" - stretch out that first syllable so it's comfier than a pair of old sweatpants - almost as much as he loves A Star is Born. Langer famously banters his daughters when they play UNO, and was presumably bantering that bin he kicked over at Headingley after Nathan Lyon's fluffed run-out (that or it was staged in order to demonstrate some "elite humility"). Either way, mental disintegration was never this bad.
Is AB making a South Africa comeback?
Impossible to avoid even in lockdown. The question of whether AB de Villiers could return for South Africa has probably found its way on to the WHO's WhatsApp group. Donald Trump has likely pondered it over a nice, cold glass of disinfectant. Scientists working on a vaccine have set up Google alerts for "AB + comeback". To recap, de Villiers quit the international scene in 2018, citing workload issues and saying he didn't want to pick and choose when he played for South Africa - although he has since made it clear he doesn't mind them occasionally picking and/or choosing him, say for the 2019 World Cup or this year's T20 World Cup. But hey, your call, guys. I'm just chilling here. South Africa, having looked at the number of T20 titles de Villers has won with RCB, Tshwane Spartans, Lahore Qalandars, Rangpur Riders, Middlesex and Brisbane Heat, would doubtless welcome him straight back.
WTF Test Championship
If the aim of the World Test Championship was to bring cricket's oldest format to the attention of shoulder-shrugging millennial ironists, then surely it was well on its way to success. With a scoring system straight from the math lady meme, a lop-sided schedule that included some series but not others and a final to be staged in an unaffordable part of the most-expensive city in the world, it had, arguably, already achieved lolwut status. India powered off into a lead that might have been unassailable if anyone had a supercomputer spare to do the sums, but were apparently so unbothered by this feat that the BCCI has already proposed deferring the competition. Meanwhile, Australia have somehow snuck back up to No. 1 in the Test rankings, to bemused indifference all round. Will the WTC save Test cricket? Don't all rush to say 'meh'.
When will MS Dhoni retire?
Whenever he ding-dong-diddly chooses. Please, let's not start this one up again.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick