Kolkata: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose selection in the Indian squad was under the scanner for the ongoing series against Sri Lanka proved his detractors wrong in style as Indian head coach Ravi Shastri believes that the talismanic right-hander is not even, ‘half-finished yet’ and that he is very much a part of the team’s plans for the 2019 World Cup.
Shastri said that the Indian team would experiment a lot with it’s squad ahead of the World Cup and the 36-year Dhoni remains central to their plans.
In an interaction with PTI, he said, “MS Dhoni is a massive influence on the team. He is a living legend in the dressing room and an ornament to the game. By no means or by any stretch of imagination he is finished or even half finished yet.”
He further added, “If anyone thinks so, they are mistaken and they have another one coming. They are in for some surprises. The old dog has plenty to offer.”
Dhoni, who played his 300th ODI on Thursday has been in terrific form in the ongoing ODI series and has been one of the reasons why India has been able to continue with it’s domination. In the second and the third matches, he came out to bat when the opposition had the upper hand and bailed the team out of trouble. As a matter of fact, he might not have been his aggressive best with the bat but the patient yet gritty knocks of 45, 67 and 49 in the last three matches speaks volumes about the man, who has yet a lot left in the tank.
The head coach also said that Dhoni still the best wicketkeeper in the limited overs’ format today.
“How do you pick players? When they are good, and Dhoni is the best limited-overs keeper in the country. Forget his batting stats, what else do you want? Just because he has played for so many years, you are thinking about a replacement keeper in the country?” questioned Shastri.
He further went on to draw a comparison with legendary figures like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar as he said, “He (Dhoni) is the best in the country. Would you look to replace Sunil Gavaskar when he was 36 years old or Sachin Tendulkar when he was 36? Dhoni is still the best in the business, so what is the need to even entertain those thoughts?.”
He also said that rotation and experimentation would be a regular practice with the team now and would also be important as the team would play over 40-limited overs matches before the World Cup.
He said, “ODIs are where we will experiment. Winning and losing will not matter so much. Of course, you play to win but we have to try all possible combinations. It is a long way to go until the World Cup and we want to take one series at a time.”
“Most of our players have played in this series already, and the endeavour will be to rotate the players giving everyone enough opportunity. So that when we have 12-15 months to go for the World Cup, we have a nucleus of about 18-20 players in place. And we can then choose from this group just before the World Cup begins,” he added.
Shastri also opined that this Indian team has the ability to win in overseas conditions as well.
“If you look at world cricket today, there is not one team in the world that travels well. Not a single one, but India can be that team. And we are already doing it bit by bit,” he said.
He further added, “If you look at last three years, we are starting to travel well. We won the ODI series in England in 2014. We whitewashed Australia (3-0 in the T20 series in 2016), and I don’t even remember which team has ever done that in Australia. We have back-to-back series here in Sri Lanka. We won the Asia Cup last year. So this young side has already had a lot of ‘firsts’ overseas.”
Shastri also said that Ishant Sharma is on his way into county cricket following the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin.
[Ashwin snared eight wickets and helped his team Worcestershire beat Gloucestershire by 189 runs.]
He also said that he would want to see more top-order batsmen and fast bowlers be a part of county cricket which would help them gear up for the Test series in England next summer.
He said, “I am all for that. Pujara, Ashwin and now Ishant is also going, I think he is joining Kent. These are vital and key players in our team. The more players go, the merrier. I would like to see a couple more of fast bowlers going there.”
“Zaheer Khan went there for a couple seasons to Worcestershire and he was a changed bowler. So I would love to see Umesh Yadav or Mohammed Shami going there, even if for short periods,” added the coach.
He also said, “And why just the bowlers, the batsmen should go too. If they want to before the tour, be it Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma or others, I am all for it.”