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Calls of taking a firm call on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s career might have elevated in recent times with the selectors also making it clear that the former captain is no more a guaranteed star in the team but the wicket-keeper batsman’s former teammate Virender Sehwag has leapt to his defence by saying that the World Cup-winning captain is irreplaceable at least till the 2019 World Cup.
With just a couple of years left before the next World Cup, there have been calls to replace Dhoni who has performed indifferently with the bat in recent times. However, while several quarters want Dhoni to be replaced as soon as possible in order to give the incoming player ample time to get accustomed to the rigours of international cricket, Sehwag feels exactly the opposite of it and said that any new player should be given a chance only after the World Cup.
“I don’t think anyone can replace Dhoni at this point of time. Rishabh Pant is good but he would also need time to replace him. But that can only happen after 2019. It’s then when we should think about Dhoni’s replacement. Till then let Pant gain experience,” Sehwag told PTI.
“We should not worry about whether Dhoni is scoring runs or not. We should only pray that MS Dhoni is fit till 2019 World Cup. The experience that he has in the middle and the lower middle order, no one has that,” he added.
Sehwag, who himself endured some tough times towards the end of his illustrious career, said that there will be ups and downs in the game.
“Like life, the beauty of sports is that no two periods are identical. You will have to deal with it. There are days when you make runs and there will be a dry spell. Like in business, every year you don’t make profits,” he said.
Earlier this month, MSK Prasad had said that Dhoni is not an automatic choice in the team anymore and that the selectors would have to look out for alternatives if the senior batsman does not perform.
“Discussions happen about everybody. It is not just MS Dhoni (or anybody else). When we pick, when we talk about combinations, we talk about everybody. Whenever a player keeps ageing, for example, I was just reading Agassi’s book, Open, his life actually started after 30 years. Till then he won two or three titles. His actual life started after that. He lived with media pressure, ‘When are you going to retire?’,” Prasad had said.
“But he played till 36 and he won so many Grand Slams. So you never know. If he (Dhoni) is delivering, why not? If he is not, we will have to look at alternatives,” he had added.
Meanwhile, Sehwag completely disagreed with the idea of trying out KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper. The Karnataka star has donned the wicketkeeping gloves in the Indian Premier League but Sehwag feels trying out a player who is not a natural ‘keeper might backfire.
“I would never want a guy, who is not a natural ‘keeper. It’s not keeping 20 overs in Indian Premier League. During a 50-over match, one missed stumping or missed catch can change the course of the match. It’s not a risk worth taking,” said Sehwag.
He also suggested that the middle-order along with bowlers should be given close to 100-match experience before they represent the country in the next World Cup.
“The middle-order that would play in the World Cup along with the bowlers should be given enough opportunities, so by the time of World Cup, they should have played close to 100 ODIs each. They should be ready to handle each and every challenging situation thrown at them,” said the World Cup-winning star.
“Experience always enables you to handle pressure better. They can then win you matches in crunch situations. If they are not given that many chances, they could be the weak link. Next 3-6 months, I hope that the core is set,” he added.
When asked about his take on team management’s decision to rest R Ashwin for the ongoing limited-overs series in Sri Lanka while the off-spinner has now joined Worcestershire for a county stint, Sehwag said:
“I thought that he was being given a break as he has bowled a lot in the Test series. Ideally, he should have been given rest but then it’s a decision that Ashwin and team management needed to take. I don’t know what’s in their minds.”
“May be they are focussing on winning the Test series in England next year and if that’s the case, then so be it,” he added.