Former India batsman Virender Sehwag on Friday backed wicketkeeper MS Dhoni to retain his place in the ODI squad till the upcoming World Cup in 2019. With youngster Rishabh Pant scoring a ton in the fifth Test against England at Oval, and Dinesh Karthik also showing his form in the limited-overs format in the past few months, the 37-year-old might face stiff competition for his position leading up to the World Cup next year. Speaking to news channel India TV, the cricketer-turned-commentator said that he would prefer Dhoni over Pant because of his experience.
“Even if you play Pant in ODIs from now, he won’t be able to play more than 15-16 ODIs till the World Cup which is far less compared to Dhoni, who has played over 300 ODIs. I would want Dhoni to continue till the World Cup,” Sehwag said.
The 39-year-old further added that Dhoni has won matches single-handedly in the past for India. “Pant is someone who can hit sixes at his will, but when you talk about Dhoni, he has won matches single-handedly for the country,” he added.
The former right-hand batsman further said that Pant, who is known for his explosive batting style, could be the perfect heir to take over Dhoni’s mantle after his retirement. “So Pant has the right kind of the temperament to be a perfect heir for him. I want Dhoni to hand the baton to Pant when he hangs his boots,” he said.
Speaking about the upcoming Asia Cup tournament, Sehwag picked India to be the favourites. “I am confident India will win the trophy this year. Sri Lanka do not have the same depth in their squad like they had in the previous tournaments. Pakistan have also been inconsistent of late. So, India is the only country which has been consistent in the subcontinent and abroad,” he said.
Sehwag further added that a few teams might spring up a surprise, but India still possess the upper hand. “Bangladesh and Pakistan can surprise India in limited overs series. Pakistan defeated India in the Champions Trophy final. That is the excitement of the limited overs cricket that you can never pick a favourite. But since India has been performing consistently, hence I still feel that India is an upper hand,” he said.