Ravi Shastri goes on front foot to defend MS Dhoni: ‘Duty of team to back him’

Ravi Shastri slammed MS Dhoni’s critics, asking them to look back at their own careers before criticising the former India captain.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: November 15, 2017 8:51 am
India captain Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni A number of former players have said MS Dhoni should retire from T20Is. (Source: AP)

Ravi Shastri has slammed MS Dhoni’s critics, asking them to look back at their own careers. The Indian team head coach’s comment came on Tuesday, with some former India players asking the wicketkeeper-batsman to make way for the youngsters. Dhoni retired from Test cricket three years ago. But he is still a regular in the shorter formats.

“People should look back at their career before commenting on Dhoni. The former captain has a lot of cricket left in him and it’s the duty of the team to back the legend,” Shastri said during a promotional event here on Tuesday, adding: “There’s no one better than Dhoni on the field given his ability behind the stumps and with the bat, and his presence of mind and sharpness on the field.”

Dhoni had been targeted for his innings in the second T20 international against New Zealand at Rajkot earlier this month. India struggled to chase 197 for victory in batting-friendly conditions, with only Virat Kohli taking the attack to the opposition, scoring a 42-ball 65. Dhoni was the second highest-scorer; 49 off 37 balls. But he initially had gotten stuck.

When Dhoni had joined Kohli, the hosts, however, were in trouble – 67/4 after 9.1 overs. The former captain couldn’t force the pace, survived a missed stumping and his first six came after 10 deliveries.

“In T20s, MS Dhoni’s role is at No 4. He requires more time to get his eye in and then do the job. But today was a classic example because when Virat Kohli was batting, Dhoni had to give strike to Kohli. Kohli’s strike-rate was 160; MS Dhoni’s strike-rate was 80. That’s not good enough, when India were chasing a mammoth total,” Laxman, who was a part of the official broadcaster’s commentary team, said after the match.

He added: “I still feel it’s time for MS Dhoni to give youngsters a chance in T20 format. It will be an opportunity for a youngster to blossom and get confidence playing international cricket. He is definitely an integral part of ODI cricket.”

Then, former India seamer Ajit Agarkar tore into the great man, saying: “I think India must now look at other options, at least in T20Is. In one-day cricket, they seem to be happy with the role that he is playing. When you were the captain of the side, it was different. But just as a batsman, will India miss him, I don’t think so.”

Sourav Ganguly, too, reportedly advised Dhoni to change his approach in T20s. “His record in T20 internationals is not that good compared to ODIs. Hope Kohli and team management will speak to him separately. He has immense ability. If he approaches T20s differently, then he will be successful,” Ganguly was quoted as saying.

Diminishing returns
Between January 1, 2016 and November 7 this year, Dhoni has played 31 T20 internationals, scoring 407 runs. His average, 40.70, during this period is higher than his career average of 35.58. But in the two T20 internationals against Australia in October his strike-rate was 81.25; substantially below his career strike-rate of 123.41.

In the three T20 internationals against New Zealand, however, he scored at a strike-rate of 143.58. Dhoni has also calmly put down his critics, saying: “everybody has their own views in life”.

Chief selector MSK Prasad, too, had spoken about Dhoni no longer being an “automatic choice” before India’s limited-overs series in Sri Lanka a couple of months ago. The ex-skipper’s response was four innings, four not-outs and two match-winning knocks in the ODIs.

This paper had asked Shastri about whether Dhoni did enough to be a strong force for the 2019 World Cup; during an interview in Colombo. The head coach replied: “When was he not a strong force? It’s only people who go and think he is not. Where were there any doubts? There was never a doubt in my mind. How can there be a doubt when he is still the best wicketkeeper in the country in the one-day format. Forget his batting. Batting he will continue to surprise you. Let me assure you, what you are seeing is only a trailer. The movie will start now. There could be a movie starting very soon. Plus he is a living legend in the dressing-room, a great inspiration to the younger players as well.”

Dhoni also has had Kohli’s backing and today, Shastri reiterated his stand.

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