India news May 31, 2017

Dhoni will relish the competition for his spot - Fleming

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Fleming: Dhoni not arrogant enough to assume he will play 2019 World Cup

Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand captain, believes MS Dhoni can extend his international career until the 2019 World Cup. Fleming, who has worked alongside Dhoni during IPL coaching stints with Chennai Super Kings and Rising Pune Supergiant, believes the former India captain will relish the competition he faces from players like Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha for the spot of India's first-choice limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman in the immediate future. Although Dhoni will be 38 by the 2019 World Cup, Fleming is convinced he will continue to make significant contributions to the Indian team.

"There are a lot of players who can do that, but there is only one MS Dhoni at the moment," Fleming said, in an interview with ESPNcricinfo. "I think his track record deserves the first crack at it. He has balance in his life now so he can get fit and come back fresh. I think he will do it. He is aware that he needs to keep performing and that's when great players are at their best. If you get too comfortable you are not at your best.

"He is not arrogant enough to assume that he will make it through to the 2019 World Cup. He's made it clear that he wants to play that World Cup but he knows he also to do well to do that. He's now trying to prove his worth as he did when he was a youngster. That again is a tribute to his approach to the game and his humility towards the game. He's desperate to keep performing. If he feels he stops performing and starts to lag and becomes a hindrance, then he will give up the game."

Dhoni's future in the Indian ODI team has been the subject of much speculation in recent years. His numbers since the 2015 World Cup, too, haven't been as impressive as earlier. In 21 innings since that tournament, Dhoni has made 776 runs at an average of 38.80 and a strike rate of 86.99. Overall, in ODIs, he has scored 9275 runs in 286 matches at an average of nearly 51.

Fleming concedes that while the "giddy heights" of four to five years ago will probably be impossible to replicate, Dhoni can still be relied upon to deliver in crunch situations. Fleming is also of the view that Dhoni is best placed to continue as a finisher rather than move up the order, a move that the former India captain himself desires.

"If his keeping was deteriorating that might be a sign but it is actually getting better" © AFP

"It [moving up the order] depends on the balance of the side," Fleming reasoned. "If you have straight-out batsmen, then I wouldn't. He can do it but what you have to look at is that his strength is finishing the game. People say why don't you get him in earlier but the whole game changes from the 40th over, or the 16th over if it is a T20 game, when it becomes [the] death [overs]. And that's where he's been the best, I think.

"So you have to be careful you don't take that strength; when you apply it earlier, you lose that, maybe he gets out early. Not many can do what he can in the last stanza but many can do that job in the middle. So you don't want to take away that strength just to give him more time and get him up the order to play a more substantial innings, when his strength is in the last few.

"We have such high expectations of what he can do and often that is unfair. There is going to be some slippage, every great player has slipped a little bit as they've got older. At key times he is still contributing. Even this IPL it wasn't there as much as other years but at key times he was there. In the game against Mumbai [Indians], a virtual semi-final, he got 40 off a few balls and played a great hand.

"The other thing is to play without fear. Often when you get older, the consequence starts to creep in. So what we've talked about is playing that fearless brand of cricket that he's become known for, and making sure that he doesn't get too cautious and too worried about getting out and the consequences of that. He's at his best when he has no fear."

While Dhoni's batting form appears to have declined in recent years, his glovework has remained of the highest quality. India's chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, recently described Dhoni as the best wicketkeeper in the world and from his vantage point in the Rising Pune set-up, Fleming believes Dhoni's keeping is "almost getting better".

"I can't say it is through a lot of training," Fleming said with a laugh. "In fact during my time in the IPL, I have not seen him do any wicket-keeping training, it is all natural and it's unorthodox but it's fast and effective. Some of the dismissals and stumpings during the recent IPL were absolutely dynamite. So there's nothing wrong there and that's a great sign of reflexes and where he is, because people are questioning his age and his batting and the role he can play. If his keeping was deteriorating that might be a sign but it is actually getting better, which is a real positive for India."

"He is a wicketkeeper, he is used to positioning players, but it's still a challenge to sit back." © BCCI

Fleming believes one of Dhoni's greatest challenges in the months ahead will be to adjust to a role as just another player in the team. Dhoni stepped down as ODI and T20I captain at the start of the year, after nearly a decade at the helm.

"It is very difficult, I can speak from my own experience," Fleming said. "Once you get away from that decision-making, people can say it's very easy, you can focus on your own game and do your own thing, but it is very hard to switch the other things off. You are so used to being the decision-maker, moving players and being part of the tactics, it becomes a key part of how you play the game. It does take some adjustment.

"He is a wicketkeeper, he is used to positioning players, but it's still a challenge to sit back. You want to be part of decision-making, it is a key part of why you play the game. It is one of his challenges going forward. He has coped with it pretty well so far. He needs to be used to add that value and experience he has had over the years and more so for him, to feel like he is contributing rather than the other way round."

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Abelbenshepherds on June 2, 2017, 21:48 GMT

    Dhoni knows what to do but game is changing rapidly one or two players can't carry the whole team these days . Fielding became so important that matches are being lost because of it . If you don't have young players with experience before World Cup 2019 . And planning to play almost the same team as 2015. India can forget about the cup in fact any team trying to retain their 30 plus players for World Cup are gonna be in serious trouble .

  • Brishni on June 1, 2017, 14:50 GMT

    @ CRICFAN83946791 : So None that you recall in National colours in ODIs, World Cups or Tests then?!

  • Samarpreet on June 1, 2017, 13:13 GMT

    @ALLROUNDCRICKET He missed Neesham's Run Out in the warmup game. Moreover, he dropped Saha's catch in IPL.

  • Arup on June 1, 2017, 10:14 GMT

    100% correct - he can't expect to walk into the 2019 squad unless he performs, and I don't think he is oblivious to that. Let's not forget, he scored a magnificent century in the last ODI series India played - it feels like ages ago because it was last year against England. So whilst he may be in the twilight of his career, I think it is fair to allow him to retire when he wishes - similar to how BCCI treated Tendulkar.

  • adityagoel07 on June 1, 2017, 9:07 GMT

    Dhoni is the best leader that Indian cricket ever had, and in my view, even better than Ganguly. Period.

  • sashdu8598693 on June 1, 2017, 6:37 GMT

    None of what is said here or in the press matters. Dhoni has and always writes his own script. He will leave when you least expect it, but I can guarantee it will always be on a high. He will remain one of the best and most loved international cricketers.

  • Jose on June 1, 2017, 6:20 GMT

    @cricfan4326190989 on May 31, 2017, 18:24 GMT

    Fleming was just answering Kalra's questions, when Kalra interviewed him for this article on Dhoni. Had he been interviewed on NZ, I'm sure, he would have provided the answers on NZ.

  • jayanth on June 1, 2017, 6:15 GMT

    I believe dhoni is still a very good one day batsman In one dayers, u need players whom u can rely upon in constructing partnerships and score @ a strike rate of around 85-90 which he still has the ability to do. In addition to that, he is a wonderful wicket keeper and also has a good brain for shorter formats.

    But in t20, he is a liability considering you need to maintain a strike rate of 130 minimum these days which he is unable to do consistently.

  • alaghu on June 1, 2017, 5:55 GMT

    @HarrowXI Phant is good player. But its list A its only 20. But he play t20. After 2 year may be he entered in odi. 2017 champion trophy and 2019 world cup is in England. So Dhoni,Dinesh kartik,Kl rahul for wicket keeper spot. My team in 2019 world cup 1.Dhawan 2.Rohit 3.Kholi 4.Rahul/Dinesh 5.Dhoni 6.Kedar/Pandaya 7.Jadeja 8.Ashwin/Pandaya and 3 fast bowler

  • Brishni on June 1, 2017, 5:51 GMT

    Dhoni walks into the side just as a keeper alone. His lightning quick reflexes behind stumps are really stunning. When was the last time he missed a stumping or a catch? (Hopefully not jinxed him by saying that!)

    A keeper has to be Safe behind the stumps. Remember that run out against Bangladesh in T20 WC last year? The common sense to remove 1 glove in case of a bye....

    That is what Intelligence , Experience and skill bring in

    Unless Rishabh Pant keeps wickets regularly in 4 day cricket (which he doesn't) he does Not qualify as a Keeper.

    Saha is safe with the gloves but inconsistent with bat.

    Parthiv, Karthik, are far too poor with the gloves. They drop too many catches and miss stumpings.

    And Uthappa & Jadhav are nake shift for IPL 20 overs only Not the Long distance!

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