Former India pacer Ashish Nehra has hit back at critics, stressing on the importance of having MS Dhoni, who according to him, is peerless.
The 39-year-old, who is part of Royal Challengers Bangalore's support staff, pointed out that Dhoni's experience and the ability to guide the team, including captain Virat Kohli, makes him an inevitable presence in the Men in Blue setup.
Nehra's comments come at a time when Dhoni's place in the limited-overs sides is being questioned after a string of poor performances, especially in 2018 Asia Cup and the recently-concluded ODI series against the West Indies.
Dhoni has managed just 275 runs from 13 innings (ODIs) in the ongoing year at a paltry strike rate of 71.42, which has been a cause for concern for Team India.
The World Cup-winning former captain was recently dropped from the T20I squads for the West Indies and Australia series as the selectors were keen on looking ahead, keeping in mind the 2020 World T20.
The selectors have backed 21-year-old Rishabh Pant and senior campaigner Dinesh Karthik as wicketkeeping options for the said T20I series.
"Yes, there is Rishabh Pant, there is Dinesh Karthik, who has done reasonably well, but MS Dhoni is MS Dhoni. Nobody comes close to him, not only as a cricketer but the kind of aura he has it is a great help to somebody [Yuzvendra] Chahal, to Kuldeep [Yadav] Jasprit Bumrah and most importantly to Virat Kohli," Nehra told Cricketnext.
He added: "MS Dhoni knows what he is doing. Although he wasn't that good in Asia Cup and this series what he would have liked to have but still he has two months. I am sure that he will do well in Australia, so we shouldn't worry about MS Dhoni."
While Dhoni's T20I future is reportedly all but over, there are growing concerns over his form, especially his dipping strike rate in the 50-over format of the game.
With the veteran not playing six international fixtures before he returns for the Australia tour, lack of match practice may work against him Down Under. Dhoni hasn't been keen about playing domestic cricket in the recent past but a couple of appearances in the ongoing Ranji Trophy tournament will only help him in the lead up to the much-anticipated tour.
With Pant proving his exploits in the shortest as well as the longest format of the game, there is considerable pressure on Dhoni over his place in the playing XI. However, captain Virat Kohli and the team management have backed the 37-year-old, who is clearly a shadow of his former self.
Kohli recently opened up about Dhoni's axing from the T20I squad and assured that the Jharkhand hero remains an integral part of the ODI setup.
Despite not scoring runs aplenty, Dhoni's glovework is second to none. The former captain also takes a lot of pressure off Kohli by helping him with field placements and pep talks to bowlers, especially the spin twins of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.