India coach Ravi Shastri has given his unequivocal backing to MS Dhoni, stating he is still the best wicket-keeping option available.
There had been doubts raised about the future of Dhoni’s spot in the squad following chief selector MSK Prasad’s statement prior to India’s tour of Sri Lanka.
Prasad had stated that no member of the squad, including Dhoni, was assured of a spot in the team going forward.
The Ranchi maverick proved all detractors wrong in the limited-overs series against the Islanders, though, where India romped away to a 5-0 whitewash.
Dhoni played match-winnings knocks of 45, 67 and 49, all unbeaten, in the ODI series while also becoming the first player in history to complete 100 stumping dismissals.
And his assured performances for the Indian middle-order in times of crisis have not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the head coach.
“Dhoni is still the best wicket-keeper in the world and he is the quickest. The break from Test cricket has been great for Dhoni. He is an asset to the Indian team. He is an elder statesman in the dressing room,” Shastri told India Today.
“MS Dhoni is a massive influence on the team. He is a living legend in the dressing room and an ornament to the game. By no means or by any stretch of imagination he is finished or even half finished yet.
“If anyone thinks so, they are mistaken and they have another one coming. There are in for some surprises. The old dog has plenty to offer,” he added.
The fact that Dhoni remains the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the country was also not lost on the Indian coach.
“How do you pick players? When they are good. Dhoni is the best limited-overs keeper in the country. Forget his batting stats, what else do you want. Just because he has played for so many years, you are thinking about a replacement?
“He is the best in the country. Would you look to replace Sunil Gavaskar with when he was 36-years-old or Sachin Tendulkar when he was 36? Dhoni is still the best in the business, so what is the need to even entertain those thoughts,” Shastri asked.
The fact remains that even at 36, Dhoni remains supremely fit and his running between the wickets still puts others in the squad to shame.
With the lack of experience in the Indian middle-order, the former India skipper remains the best bet to take the wicket-keeping slot in the World Cup 2019.