MS Dhoni's poor return with the bat in 2018, a year ahead of the ODI World Cup, led to a barrage of criticism of the former India skipper. With critics suggesting that Dhoni had got past his best, many demanded the exclusion of the 2011 World Cup-winning captain from the ODI side to make way for young blood as India planned to mount a challenge at the upcoming ICC event.
In 2018, Dhoni could only manage 275 runs in 20 ODIs at an average of 25 and also failed to score a single fifty in the year. However, 2019 has been highly successful so far for the 37-year-old making the previous year's performance look like a blip on the great career of Dhoni. In nine matches so far, Dhoni has raked up 327 runs at a healthy average of 50.72, which also includes four half-centuries.
Apart from his batting, Dhoni's lighting quick wicket-keeping and mentoring of young spinners during crunch match situations makes him an indispensable figure in the Indian side. Dhoni also brings with the him the invaluable experience of winning three ICC tournaments, 2007 World T20, 2011 ODI World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy. In fact, he's the only captain to win all ICC tournaments.
Another former player, who boasts a great CV of ICC tournaments is Ricky Ponting. The former Australia skipper won two ODI World Cups as captain, in 2003 and 2007, and was part of the 1999 World Cup-winning Aussie side.
When Ponting was asked in an interview with Times of India about Dhoni, who has a chance to come close to his record of World Cup titles, the 44-year-old said he never though Dhoni would stand a chance to make it to 2019 World Cup.
Ponting added that Dhoni's experience and ability to finish matches would prove to be invaluable for India.
"Four years ago, it looked as if his (Dhoni) international career was over. I didn't think he would make it to the 2019 World Cup. But, probably he is playing as good as he has at any point. The one-day series in Australia, he just iced some of those games, he found himself in situations where he had to finish games and he did it. India will face such situation in the World Cup. That kind of experience is invaluable," Pontiong said.
Meanwhile, Ponting, who is also the coach of Indian Premier League side Delhi Capitals, also backed his franchise player and India wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant to be part of the World Cup squad.
Pant, who was given the opportunity to play the last two ODIs in the series against Australia recently, flattered to deceive as he only put up 52 in two matches at 26. His wicket-keeping skills also were found wanting.
"I think it's actually a big job for me and the coaches when he comes in, to make him forget what's happened in the last few days. He's probably lucky it happened in the last couple of games. It would have been hard to play all five games under that kind of pressure. Now he's back in a competition where he has dominated in the past. If he can win a couple of games for us then everything will be forgotten. I can't see anyone better than him as a second wicket-keeper in that Indian World Cup squad," said Ponting.
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"At 30 for 4, you want to put up a respectable score, I felt Rutu and Bravo got us more than what we expected. We thought of 140, to get close to 160 was tremendous," Dhoni said.