Indian cricket team's star opener Shikhar Dhawan has brushed aside speculations over Mahendra Singh Dhoni's retirement by saying that the decision should be left to him.
Speculation has been rife about Dhoni's retirement ever since the former India captain has made himself unavailable for selection after the 2019 ODI World Cup.
"Dhoni has been playing for so long, I feel he understands when he should retire. This should be his decision. He has taken very important decisions so far for India in his career and I'm sure he will make the call when the time comes," Dhawan said while replying to a question from Rajat Sharma in the show 'Aap Ki Adalat' to be telecast tonight (Saturday) on India TV.
Dhawan was full of praise for Dhoni and said that his ability to make a champion out of a player has contributed much to India's success during his captaincy.
"This is the quality of a big leader. He knows the potential of every player, and knows to what extent a player should be backed. He knows how to make a champion out of a player. India's success during his captaincy justifies this. His [Dhoni's] control is his biggest quality." Dhawan said.
Dhawan, who made his international debut under Dhoni's captaincy in 2010, said the entire team, including current captain Virat Kohli, has immense respect for the Ranchi stalwart.
"Dhoni bhai has been quite successful as the captain of the side. We are all very grateful to him and we respect him a lot, and the same goes for Virat," he said.
Dhawan also revealed the camaraderie between Kohli and Dhoni.
"When Virat was young, he guided him immensely. Even when he became the captain, Dhoni bhai was always there to help him. This is the quality of a leader. It's good to see that Virat is showing his gratitude to him now," he said.
Dhawan, who is known for his attractive stroke play and comes across as a showman on the field, shared an interesting anecdote of his journey to the Indian cricket dressing room.
Dhawan revealed how he could not sleep and had to take a sleeping pill before his international debut in 2010 at the ODI match against Australia in Visakhapatnam. He, however, was dismissed for naught in his first match.
Dhawan was supposed to make his debut in the first ODI of the series but the match got abandoned due to heavy rain in Bengaluru.
"Before my debut, I had a sleepless night. I was worried if I would have the energy to play the next day. The next day, it rained and the match was called off. But I was very nervous then. And then, I took a sleeping pill before the next match.
"When I got out for a duck in my ODI debut, I went back laughing. It was disappointing because I imagined myself scoring a century."
The 33-year-old southpaw has so far represented India in 133 ODIs, scoring 5,518 runs and hammering 17 centuries. In 34 Test matches, he has scored 2,315 runs and has seven hundreds to his name. Meanwhile, in 55 T20Is, Dhawan has scored 1413 runs and has registered 9 fifties.
During the show, Dhawan also opened up on the early struggles he endured during his playing career. However, he said, for him, it was always about playing the game to the fullest and enjoying life.
"When I played in 2010, I was out after one or two games but I have never experienced struggle as such in my life. During those days I enjoyed my cricket and had fun with the boys. I focused on my cricket, fitness and was hopeful that my time will come," Dhawan said when asked by a fan if he ever faced struggles in life.
Dhawan, who hails from West Delhi, also opened up on his childhood and what made him realize that he could become a cricketer.
"I used to put fire-crackers in letter boxes. Sometimes, I would tear up the letters and throw them in the drain. Obviously, my parents used to thrash me for such acts."
"My father wanted me to study, but I was more of a sports buff. I was the youngest in the family, so my mother used to lock me inside the house when she had to go out. But I always sneaked out of the house when my friends gathered to play cricket. My mother used to beat me when she returned and found that I had escaped", Dhawan said recalling his childhood pranks.
Speaking about the early stage in his career, Dhawan said: "I realized that I could seriously become a professional cricketer when I was selected for the Delhi U-16 team. I was dropped after two games, but the next year, I scored a lot of runs and realized that my future lies in cricket. In U-17, I played in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Since I had been a regular in the age-groups."
Dhawan also spoke about his understanding with his opening partner Rohit Sharma. Dhawan cited an example from the game against Australia in the 2019 World Cup.
"When I was hurt during the World Cup, I told Rohit that I can't play the big shots. I said that we have provided the base for the side and suggested that I should go back and let the next guy come and play. But Rohit insisted that I should stay as the runs were coming. He said, our partnership is going on well and it will help the team," Dhawan said.
"And indeed, we went on to build a solid partnership, and even with a broken thumb, I took on the charge after Rohit was dismissed. I took some painkillers to ease off the pain and scored a hundred. Rohit played a big role in my century. His advice helped me a lot during that innings," he added.
The duo last opened together in the recently concluded T20I series against South Africa and is likely to resume the role when Bangladesh tours India in November this year.
Dhawan also backed under-fire Delhi player Rishabh Pant, whose performance has come under the scanner lately.
"Rishabh Pant is very talented and I am sure he will play a long innings for India. He is trying hard. There are situations when you don't score, but then. You learn from them. It happens with everyone and I'm sure he will learn from it. He is a good player and we need to back good players. Even I went through rough patches in my life, and I still do. It is part and parcel of this game," Dhawan said.
Shikhar Dhawan in Rajat Sharma's show "Aap Ki Adalat" will be telecast on Saturday [Sep 28] at 10 pm on India TV. The repeat telecasts will take place on Sunday, Sep 29, at 10 am and 10 pm.