Fitter and faster than players 10 years his junior, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is irreplaceable in the Indian ODI team right now, feels national coach Ravi Shastri, who says critics should perhaps analyse their own careers at 36 before finding faults in the former captain.
Dhoni’s form with the bat has been heavily scrutinised in the recent past with every failure being looked upon as an ominous sign.
However, the talismanic keeper-batsman did well in the just-concluded limited overs series against Sri Lanka to silence some of the criticism.
“We are not stupid. I have been watching this sport for the last 30-40 years. Virat has been a part of this team for a decade now. We know, at this age, he (Dhoni) can beat players aged 26. People who talk, forget that they played the game,” Shastri told ‘India Today’.
Dhoni’s sharp reflexes behind the stumps are still unmatched and chief selector MSK Prasad made it clear that none of the younger guys have quite yet matched upto the game-changer, under whose leadership India won an unprecedented two World Cups.
The sentiment was echoed by Shastri, who has been vocal in defending Dhoni in the past as well.
“If they look at themselves in the mirror and ask the question, ‘what they were at the age of 36?’. Would they have run two runs faster? But the time they finish two, this guy will run three. Then he has won only two World Cups and averages only 51. Till today you don’t have a wicket-keeper to replace him in the one-day team,” he asserted.
Shastri said Dhoni’s skill set is not easy to find and it would be long before a replacement comes along.
“He is still one of the best around, not only in the Indian team, but in the world. Some of the things you see with him are not sold in the market. You will not get it anywhere else,” he said.
“The fact that he does not play Test cricket, means he should be playing as much cricket as possible till the World Cup in 2019,” he added.
Shastri also spoke about the upcoming tour of South Africa, which starts with a three-match Test series from January 5.
The team is scheduled to depart on December 27 and would be aiming to secure its first Test series triumph on the South African soil.