Former skipper MS Dhoni has been at the receiving end of some criticism lately.
With age catching up and expectations at an all-time high, Dhoni seems to be failing to maintain his reputation among fans who believed he had the everlasting powers being the ultimate match-winner.
Dhoni has had an inconsistent run with the bat having scored 443 runs at an average of 34.07 in 13 ODIs since January last year. When compared to his career average of 51, this is very less.
But, as naysayers emerge from the bush, the supporters have tightened up the defence and are bringing out the positives. Stephen Fleming, MS Dhoni’s long-time associate in the IPL, is one of those backers who believes that the 35-year-old will relish the competition from younger names.
“There are a lot of players who can do that, but there is only one MS Dhoni at the moment,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Fleming as saying.
Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha have been vying for the spot of wicketkeeper-batsman in the ODIs from the time MS Dhoni was just another promising name with long locks.
The opportunity for the duo has now re-opened, as an exhausted Mahi is trying hard to keep up with a changing Indian team and the burden of expectations.
The younger duo of KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant the other prospects who have shown the potential of being a capable Dhoni replacement. However, these factors don’t seem considerable at the moment to Fleming who is convinced that Dhoni will continue to make significant contributions till the 2019 World Cup.
“I think his track record deserves the first crack at it. He has balance in his life now so he can get fit and come back fresh. I think he will do it. He is aware that he needs to keep performing and that’s when great players are at their best. If you get too comfortable you are not at your best,” he said.
“He is not arrogant enough to assume that he will make it through to the 2019 World Cup. He’s made it clear that he wants to play that World Cup but he knows he also to do well to do that. He’s now trying to prove his worth as he did when he was a youngster.”
“That again is a tribute to his approach to the game and his humility towards the game. He’s desperate to keep performing. If he feels he stops performing and starts to lag and becomes a hindrance, then he will give up the game,” he added.
Fleming backed his claims through his own experience of working with MS Dhoni. He states that reflexes and wicket keeping standards are only improving to greater levels despite the fact that he never dedicates practice sessions towards that particular skill. Therefore, the question of age and slowing reflexes does not make any sense at all.
“During my time in the IPL, I have not seen him do any wicket-keeping training, it is all natural and it’s unorthodox but it’s fast and effective. Some of the dismissals and stumpings during the recent IPL were absolutely dynamite.”
“So there’s nothing wrong there and that’s a great sign of reflexes and where he is because people are questioning his age and his batting and the role he can play. If his keeping was deteriorating that might be a sign but it is actually getting better, which is a real positive for India,” he added.
The 44-year-old also has a small advice from his own experience as a former skipper. He advises that MS should adjust to the role of being ‘just a player’ in the team as soon as possible, as it is very difficult to get used to the transition.
“It is very difficult, I can speak from my own experience,” Fleming said.