The jury is still out on whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni should be a part of 2019 World Cup squad but Virender Sehwag strongly feels that the Indian team is “yet to find suitable replacement” of the former skipper. “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 during an exclusive interview.
For one of India’s greatest match-winners of all time, cricket lovers should pray that Dhoni remains as fit as he is currently rather than focus on his lean patch with the bat. “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,” said Sehwag, who is a part of Star Sports panel for the upcoming limited overs series against Australia.
For Sehwag, Dhoni’s entire career is a definition of ‘cycle of life’. “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.
There is a school of thought that KL Rahul could be seen with big gloves in case Dhoni is found wanting but ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ is completely against that idea. “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.
The swashbuckling opener wants middle-order batsmen to be given more chances so that everyone has close to 100-match experience by the time World Cup begins. The core team should be set at least one year before the 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,” he said.
“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.”
Sehwag, a veteran of 104 Tests and 251 ODIs, would ideally like to see either Yuvraj Singh or Suresh Raina in the England bound World Cup squad. “Let one of the middle-order slot be given to one of them while the other slot may be rotated between Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey. In that way, you also have given these guys experience while one seasoned player is also there in the set-up,” he observed.
Asked about ‘rested’ Ravichandran Ashwin playing County cricket for Worcestershire, Sehwag felt that ideally he should have been rested after bowling close to 200 overs in three Tests against Sri Lanka. “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.”
Asked about the upcoming limited overs series against Australia, Sehwag said that it will be a tough one considering quality of the opposition. “Australia always gives a tough fight and that’s why every player wants to perform against Australia. When you perform against Australia, England and South Africa, you automatically earn more respect. I expect players to be charged up,” he signed off.