World Cup-winning Indian captain Kapil Dev has slammed MS Dhoni's critics, saying "the media" should have realistic expectations from the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Dhoni has been criticised over the last few years for his waning finishing abilities. The Ranchi hero has not been able to finish matches as consistently as he used to during his heyday. The dip in the strike rate, which has not gone past 85 since 2016 in ODIs, is a testament to his inability to hit the big ones consistently.
The 36-year-old's place in the limited-overs sides, especially in the T20 format, was questioned by former cricketers, including VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar after he struggled to accelerate towards the end overs during India's 2-1 win over New Zealand in a three-match T20I series last year.
"Why do people have this doubt? Is there any cricketer who can take Mahi's place in the next series? I'm not talking about the 2019 World Cup. I'll go series by series. He's such a mature cricketer if he can help Virat Kohli, why not?" Dev told Firstpost.
He added: "If he's not performing at all, I can understand. The problem with the media is that they compare Dhoni with what he was 10 years back. He's not going to be like that, but I think we need to see whatever he's doing for the team is it good enough for the team or not."
Dhoni continues to get Kohli and Shastri's backing
Dhoni though has managed to silence his critics with some match-winning performances against Sri Lanka last year and the recently-concluded limited-over series in South Africa. The right-hander even hit a 28-ball 52 in the second T20I against the Proteas, showing glimpses of his former self.
Nonetheless, the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman has been receiving the backing of captain Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri. The latter even went on to say that there are "jealous people" waiting "to see the end" of the World Cup-winning former skipper.
Also, Dhoni's inputs from behind the wickets have helped the skipper and bowlers, especially the spinners. The likes of Sourav Ganguly have highlighted the stumper's contribution in "a leadership capacity" to captain Kohli.
The young wrist spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who demolished South Africa in the recently-concluded six-match ODI series by picking up 33 wickets between them have been acknowledging Dhoni's contribution to their success.