There's no certainty that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be a part of the Indian squad when the Men in Blue travel to the British Isles to defend the ICC World Cup title next year. However, Virender Sehwag has made an earnest eeffort, backing his former captain to continue until the 2019 event in England and Wales.
Dhoni is still India's first choice glovesman in the shorter formats. But the 37-year-old's position has been challenged by the rise of Rishabh Pant. With the youngster playing a brilliant knock in the fifth and final Test match against England at The Oval, many have already started talking about a possible handover.
"In my personal opinion, MS Dhoni should continue till the 2019 World Cup," the former India opener said India TV.
Pant is being seen as Dhoni's heir apparent. The 20-year-old has all the makings to flourish in the finisher's role, and elmulate Dhoni. But the Ranchi man has clearly struggled scoring runs in the last couple of years.
But in a big tournament, like the World Cup, experience matters. And the presence of someone like Dhoni, known for his cool demeanor, in the midst will only help India's cause.
"Even if you play Pant in ODIs from now, he won’t be able to play more than 15-16 ODIs till the World Cup which is far less compared to Dhoni, who has played over 300 ODIs. I would want Dhoni to continue till the World Cup," Sehwag added.
But Sehwag opined that when Dhoni retires, the baton should automatically pass on to Pant.
"Pant is someone who can hit sixes at his will, but when you talk about Dhoni, he has won matches single-handedly for the country. So Pant has the right kind of the temperament to be a perfect heir for him. I want Dhoni to hand the baton to Pant when he hangs his boots,” he added.
In an illustrious career, Dhoni has helped India lift all three ICC sanctioned tournaments – World Twenty20 in 2007, World Cup in 2011 and Champions Trophy in 2013.
He has played 321 ODI matches, scoring 10046 runs at an average of 51.25.
Dhoni will be a part of the Indian team, which is defending the Asia Cup title in the United Arab Emirates, even as Pant takes a break after the long and ardous England tour.
The youngster is yet to make his ODI debut for India. He, however, has played three Tests and four T20Is.
The 2019 World Cup will be held in England and Wales, from May 30 to July 14 next year. The tournament will see all the competing ten teams playing each other once, with the top four sides making it to the semis.
India will open their campaign against South Africa on June 5 at the Rose Bowl, Southampton.
It will be followed by fixtures against Australia (June 9 at The Oval, London), New Zealand (June 13 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham), Pakistan (June 16 at Old Trafford, Manchester), Afghanistan (June 22 at the Rose Bowl), the West Indies (June 27 at Old Trafford), England (June 30 at Edgbaston, Birmingham), Bangladesh (July 2 at Edgbaston) and Sri Lanka (July 6 at Headingly, Leeds).