‘Dhoni should play the World Cup in 2019’

Joginder Sharma, who made his debut with the World Cup winning skipper and shared the World T20 glory in 2007, lauds his old friend's longevity ahead of his 300th ODI.

Joginder Sharma — who bowled the winning last over in the India-Pakistan 2007 T20 WC final — feels skipper Dhoni will be a part of India's 2019 WC campaign.   -  Getty Images

M.S. Dhoni is a milestone man. In his decade-long career, the 36-year-old led India to glory in ICC events like the World T20 (2007), World Cup (2015) and Champions Trophy (2013). He also has two IPL crowns in his cabinet.

He stepped down from captaincy earlier this year, but there is no end to his accomplishments. The wicketkeeper/batsman will appear in his 300 ODI match, when India takes on Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday.

Joginder Sharma — the bowling all-rounder who made his ODI debut with Dhoni against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2004 — still remembers, “Dhoni run out ho gaya tha” (Dhoni was run out). Impressed by his recent flourish, Sharma believes his old friend is fit to play the next World Cup in 2019.

Injuries and talent overdose in the Indian team paused Sharma’s progress in international cricket, but he remained updated on his old colleague’s exploits.

“A cricketer’s performance may fluctuate but his talent never perishes. In world cricket, I haven’t seen a better finisher. Even as a skipper, Dhoni can turn the match from any situation with his sharp cricketing brain. Since he is fit and is contributing with the bat, he should definitely play the World Cup in 2019,” Sharma told Sportstar in an exclusive chat.

Both of them earned their India berth after shining in Ranji Trophy. Sharma recalled a few conversations with the former captain from those days. “We had spoken right after we received the national call-up. We discussed how we shouldn’t let go off the opportunity and that we needed to create an impact to play for a longer period. I am happy that he is still playing for India. I had a similar dream but injuries stopped me from staging a proper comeback,” he added.

So what if his career couldn’t take off, he is still remembered for bowling the crucial last over in the India-Pakistan final rubber in the inaugural edition of the World T20 at the Wanderers (Johannesburg) in 2007. India won the match by five runs and in no time, Dhoni earned the sobriquet ‘Captain Cool’.

“He told me not to crumble under pressure and asked me to stick to the plans. He also said that even if we lose the match, I shouldn’t worry; being the skipper, he will take responsibility for the loss. He was so positive that we never thought of losing any match under him,” revealed Sharma, who is delighted that Dhoni is taking the selectors’ inspection on him seriously.

“If somebody is picked to represent the country, he is bound to have some talent and potential. When you get a chance to perform, you should make use of it and he has been doing that. He scored an unbeaten 67 and 45 in the last two matches against Sri Lanka.”

The Haryana cricketer also feels that Virat Kohli grew under Dhoni’s tutelage. “There is a stark difference between the Kohli of 2007 and now. I remember playing Duleep Trophy with the teenager Kohli. Today, he is mentally and physically fitter. He had the privilege to observe and learn the nuances of captaincy from Dhoni.”

Sharma played four ODIs and as many T20s for India. He also had a brief stint in the IPL with Chennai Super Kings, under Dhoni. Currently, he is the Deputy Superintendent of Police (Haryana).