MS Dhoni's Calmness Is "Invaluable" For Team India, Says Ricky Ponting
Ricky Ponting believes Team India still need MS Dhoni's calmness in pressure situations to win crucial One-day Internationals.
MS Dhoni might not be at the helm but he continues to be an integral part of Virat Kohli's Team India's scheme of things in limited overs cricket. Former Australia captain and the current head coach of Delhi Capitals Ricky Ponting, who is in India for the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), told NDTV that Team India still need MS Dhoni's calmness in pressure situations to win crucial One-day Internationals. India, after taking a 2-0 lead, lost the five-match ODI series 3-2 against Australia at home. Dhoni, who brought up a match-winning unbeaten partnership of 141 runs for the fifth wicket with Kedar Jadhav in Hyderabad, was rested for the last two ODIs. Ponting said that he missed MS Dhoni's calmness in those games and his presence might have made a difference for the hosts.
"I wouldn't ever be negative towards Virat with regards to his captaincy, I have seen what he has done with the Test team over the last couple of years, and MS has not been around for that. However, I think that the little bit of presence he brings on the field and a certain calmness to the batting when India is in a pressure situation, is invaluable. I missed his batting in the last three games (vs Australia), which is also probably why India did not win," Ponting told NDTV.
The IPL 2019 is set to begin on March 23 and Delhi Capitals, a franchise that was bought by JSW and re-branded, is all set to give it another bash under the mentorship of Ponting. The Australian legend is happy about the selection of players this time around but knows that his challenge as coach will be to keep the players focused on the IPL and not cast a thought on World Cup selection.
"The important thing for Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant is not to look too far towards the World Cup, instead stay in the present, to not try to impress everyone for World Cup selection. That is something I will talk to them about. It is a high pressure time for those players, great challenge for us as coaching group, and an even bigger challenge for the players," said Ponting.
Ponting said he is particularly hoping for Dhawan to replicate his IPL form with the SunRisers Hyderabad and perhaps use IPL as a platform to regain some consistency in the white ball format. Dhawan has lately been downgraded in the India cricket contract list. Ponting said, "If you look at Dhawan's IPL career, it's been very consistent; he has been the 450-run batsman for SunRisers for the last few seasons and we are hoping for something similar for Delhi Capitals this time."
Ponting also said he would like to see both Dhoni and Pant in the Indian squad for the World Cup, even putting in a suggestion on where to fit Pant in.
"Pant is one of the most dynamic young players in world cricket today. He is the sort of player that can have a massive impact on the World Cup. When we went into the 2003 World Cup, we knew Andrew Symonds was the kind of player who could win us the Cup, he played some amazing innings and we ended up winning. India has holes in the middle order, they do not know who'll be their number 4. I wouldn't be against giving Pant a chance to prove himself higher up the order," he said.
Kohli has said that there is only one spot up for discussion in the World Cup squad. While the Indian team seems to have a set strategy, the Australians are in quite a dilemma over their selection, particularly after the 3-2 ODI series win against India. With the talk being on where to fit in Steve Smith and David Warner, selector Ponting said, "It will be a little bit harder for those guys (Smith and Warner) to get back, given Usman Khawaja has scored runs opening the batting. What spot do they think Steve Smith is going to bat, is he going to bat at number 3, number 4, or somewhere in the middle order? Probably it's more of a difficult proposition now for them, than it was a few weeks ago when it looked like they would walk into the team. They might have to work a bit harder now; the IPL is important for Smith and Warner."
Despite all the uncertainties around the form of the defending champions, when asked to make a prediction for the final, he said, "It will be Australia vs England." Surely not music to Virat Kohli's ears.