MS Dhoni in Australia. (File image)

India captain MS Dhoni after winning the Asia Cup T20 final against India was asked about Mohammed Shami. At the press conference, he was asked, if Shami regains his fitness then who would be played at the World T20? Who would go from the winning combination then?

Dhoni suggested that if Shami is available, Ashish Nehra could be the man to lose his spot. “Whether Shami is fit or not, we will see. The only reason (Jasprit) Bumrah was picked was because he can deliver with the old and new ball, yorkers being his strength. I think it’s very difficult to replace Bumrah. Nehra has also contributed. Hardik Pandya is a fast bowling all-rounder. If (Ravindra) Jadeja or he can bat at No. 8 and they can give me three or four overs, then it looks like a better-balanced side. For Shami to replace someone, it would be Ashish,” said Dhoni in a rare moment of candour when it comes to team selection.

“But to replace Ashish would be very tough,” he went on. “He’s done very well for us, he’s moved the ball around. Shami has to prove his fitness in the warm-up games. If he does, he will stay with the team. Ashish’s slot is the only slot but he’s done very well for us.”

Dhoni also said that he was not going to include a pacer to the playing XI simply because most other teams at the Asia Cup played with a pace-heavy lineup.  “We have been one team that’s stuck with three fast bowlers and two spinners. They have picked wickets for us and more often than not, they have restricted the opposition,” he reasoned. “They might not get a lot of purchase when it comes to Test cricket, but when it comes to this format, it’s not very easy to get away with just playing the big shots. You have to manoeuvre around a bit. That’s where spinners are very good.

“Spinners will always have that special aura around them. The quality of spinners matters. Going into the T20 World Cup, they will have a major role to play.”

He was asked about all the criticism he has had to face in recent times: “Cricketers are very popular in India because everyone has an opinion about cricket. That’s the reason why cricket has so many fans. Apart from cricket, we have so many endorsements. In India, freedom of expression is there. It might look like easy on TV.

“But we get the same amount of criticism and appreciation. It’s about the individual to stay in that middle zone – shouldn’t go too far down with criticism or too far up with appreciation. The media will balance it out. If you’re up, they will pull you down soon. It’s like a launch-pad. You go up, you open the parachute and then you delay your coming down. Once you’re down, again they will throw you up. You have to accept it. There’s a different aura.

“But tomorrow if someone asks me, playing cricket for India would be my first choice. I don’t want to play cricket for any other country. I want to play for India.”