Former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra, who recently retired from competitive cricket, has backed under-fire Mahendra Singh Dhoni to play in the 2019 World Cup. In an exclusive chat with India TV, Nehra said Dhoni's presence is invaluable to the Indian dressing room and the wicket-keeper batsman's cricketing brain is second to none. Nehra, who signed off after playing his last international match for India in the first T20I against New Zealand in Delhi, said Dhoni is like a senior statesman of the team and performs the role of a mentor for the young blood. " MS Dhoni's presence in the Team India is invaluable, his experience and the value he brings to the team is simply unmatched," Nehra said.
"Apart from his brilliant wicket-keeping skills, Dhoni has the ability to read the game as he possesses a very sharp cricketing mind," Nehra added.
Dhoni has been criticized for his performance in the recently concluded T20I series versus New Zealand. His 37-ball-49 in the second T20 International which India lost to New Zealand was panned by experts as he played too many dot balls.
Former India batsman VVS Laxman in the post-match analysis has said that the Indian team management should try someone younger than Dhoni in the T20Is. However, India TV's cricket expert Virender Sehwag holds a different opinion on this subject and believes that Dhoni is playing because the Indian team needs him at the moment. Sehwag, however, said the team management can speak with Dhoni and try to make him understand his "role in the current team".
Nehra also echoed Sehwag's opinion and said, " If I can bowl fast at the age of 39, Dhoni can also play the 2020 T20 World Cup."
"Dhoni has such personality that no one needs to tell him that what he needs to do, he is himself the best judge that whether he should continue playing at the highest level or not."
"Dhoni also wonderfully shares the burden of the coach in a brilliant way, he not only mentors the young blood but also instils confidence in them and motivates them to do well."
On giving any youngster a chance in place of Dhoni, Nehra said: "Age should not be the criteria to get selected in Team India. If the player is fit and is performing well, he should retain his place in the team irrespective of his age."
The 38-year old further added, "If any youngster wants to replace MS in the side, he should perform and make his claim in the team."
"You can try any second wicket-keeper batsman in the upcoming series against Sri Lanka, Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant can be given a chance. But the selectors should allow Dhoni to make this decision that whether he wants to take rest or wants to be in the playing XI."
On Dhoni playing in the next big event which is 2019 Cricket World Cup, Nehra said: "Dhoni should definitely play the 2019 world cup as the current team needs his guidance and experience at this stage."
The Delhi-born cricketer also feels the former India skipper is doing a thankless job which constantly puts him under the scanner. "MS Dhoni comes to bat at a tricky number, he is doing a thankless job from where if he wins the match for India he becomes the greatest finisher or if he fails, he will get criticized," he said.