Former England captain Nasser Hussain has backed veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make an international comeback despite growing uncertainty over the start of the Indian Premier League.
The 38-year-old Dhoni has not appeared for club or country since playing for India in last year’s 50-over World Cup and the nationwide coronavirus lockdown is limiting his chances of getting back in the side with the IPL likely to be truncated or cancelled.
There has been speculation that Dhoni might retire from international cricket.
“What I have seen of Dhoni, I still think he has a huge amount to offer to Indian cricket,” Hussain told Indian broadcaster Star Sports on Saturday.
“Yes, there have been one or two occasions where he has got it wrong in run chases, like that World Cup game against England. But in general, Dhoni is still a really good talent.”
Hussain warned that Dhoni was a once-in-a-generation cricketer that India would struggle to replace.
“Don’t push Dhoni into retirement too early. In the end only Dhoni knows his mental state, in the end selectors select and players turn up when asked to,” he added.
“I do believe that certain individuals should not just retire into the sunset without some kind of farewell.”
Dhoni, who gave up Test cricket in 2014, has been busy gardening at home during the lockdown, according to an Instagram post by his wife.
The opening match of the Twenty20 tournament between the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings and holders Mumbai Indians was pushed back to April 15 as sporting events around the world were delayed or postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former India captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth said Dhoni’s comeback prospects looked “very, very bleak” if the IPL was cancelled.
“Because straightaway, in my opinion, KL Rahul will be the wicket keeper-batsman,” Srikkanth, former chairman of the national selection committee, said.
“Rishabh Pant, I still think he might be a bit of a doubt, but I believe that Rishabh Pant is highly talented.
“He is absolutely fit, he is a legend, he is brilliant. I am a great fan of Dhoni myself. But the question is for the (T20) World Cup team. So you’ll have to put the Indian team first and then the individuals.”
Dhoni led India to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007. He hit a six to seal the 2011 World Cup final victory and his status as a national hero.
He has amassed 10,773 runs from 350 ODIs, but his form dipped noticeably at last year’s 50-over showpiece.
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