Former Indian fast bowler Ashish Nehra backed MS Dhoni to continue playing at least till the 2019 Cricket World Cup and lashed out at critics, saying no one needed to tell the former captain what he should do in the future.
The 38-year-old, who retired from all forms of the game during the recently-concluded T20I series against New Zealand, also went on to add that age should not be the only criteria for selection and that Dhoni's guidance is "invaluable" to the Indian cricket team.
A lot has been said about Dhoni's T20I future, especially after the 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman struggled to get going in chase of 197 in the second of the three-match T20I series against New Zealand. The "Men in Blue" went on to lose the match by 40 runs as skipper Virat Kohli's lone battle (42-ball 65) ended in vain.
Nehra's comments comes after former cricketers VVS Laxman and Aakash Chopra opined Dhoni needed to make way for youngsters. Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar stressed that the Ranchi dasher has been failing repeatedly in the shortest format of the game and insisted the team to look beyond the veteran in T20Is.
"If I can bowl fast at the age of 39, Dhoni can also play the 2020 T20 World Cup," Nehra told "India TV" on Wednesday, November 8.
He added: "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. 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 should definitely play the 2019 world cup as the current team needs his guidance and experience at this stage."
Dhoni doing a thankless job: Nehra
Nehra, who made an international comeback towards the end of his career under Dhoni's leadership, also went on to highlight how difficult it is to play the role the former is playing in the team. The former Delhi fast bowler added youngsters should be groomed under the watchful eyes of his former skipper.
"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," Nehra said.
"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."
Unfair to target Dhoni: Kohli
Meanwhile, Kohli on Tuesday (November 7) backed Dhoni and said that the latter was being unfairly targeted. The Indian captain also shed light on how difficult it is for his former captain to come in and get going from the word go in conditions that are difficult to new-comers.
"As team management and players, we understand the situations in which he goes out to bat. We don't get emotional and excited by the opinions of people who are looking at things from a different point of view. If you are playing, you know how the wicket is and what the situation is like. So, I think he is doing absolutely fine," Kohli said during the post-match press conference on Tuesday.