“The reason I say I am not surprised at this decision is that he is not someone who will chase the seat,” said Ravi Shastri on MS Dhoni. © AFP

“Dhoni is in the same league as Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev” – Ravi Shatri. © AFP

Ravi Shastri, India’s head coach, gave a ringing endorsement to MS Dhoni’s international future, saying it was next to impossible to ignore the former captain for the 2019 World Cup given his current form and fitness.

Dhoni, who turned 36 in July, was in brilliant form in India’s recently concluded five-match One-Day International series in Sri Lanka, where he scored 162 runs at a strike-rate of 82.23 in four hits at the crease without being dismissed even once. In addition, he also became the first wicketkeeper in ODI history to effect 100 stumpings.

During the Sri Lanka ODIs, Dhoni also became only the sixth Indian to feature in 300 ODIs, and Shastri put the wicketkeeper-batsman at par with Indian cricket’s biggest legends. “Where else will you find a legend like MS Dhoni?” Shastri told India TV. “Dhoni is in the same league as Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev. We have to respect his achievements.

“A player is evaluated on the basis of his current form and fitness and Dhoni has both. If you see his wicketkeeping, he is the best in ODI cricket. His fitness is superb, he batted well in Sri Lanka. And let me tell you, it was just a trailer what you saw in Sri Lanka now wait for the movie. If he continues to play like this, there no question of not having him in the team for the 2019 World Cup. You can’t even think of a team without Dhoni.”

But while Dhoni’s immediate future, at the very least, is secure, fellow veterans Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, are currently out of favour with the national selectors. Neither of them was selected for the Sri Lanka ODIs and they don’t feature in the team chosen for the first three ODIs against Australia too.

There had been reports of Yuvraj and Raina falling short of the strict fitness standards set as the bar for the Indian team, but Shastri said the door was not closed on the duo if they passed all criteria.

On Virat Kohli:
“I think he has evolved magnificently. As a player you can see it in his performances. As a captain, you can see the way he handles the media. And the respect he gets from his teammates as a captain and player – it is tremendous. He is evolving as a captain. I think there is a long way to go. He is only 28, he should be around for another five-six years at least as a skipper. He can learn a heck of a lot. The next three years will really define him, I think already he is right up there, but the next three years will be a great learning curve for him.”

“Any player is eligible for selection if they perform well on the following parameters – fitness, current form, and fielding. Fielding is very important if you want to win consistently,” he pointed out. “I am not involved in selection. The door is not closed on Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. Any player who performs well on these parameters is eligible for selection.

“Keeping in mind the 2019 ODI World Cup, we wanted every player to get a chance to play in Sri Lanka and we ensured it. The bilateral series against Australia will again be a good opportunity to identify the players who will form the nucleus/core team for the world cup.”

Shastri also shed some light on the rotation, or rest, that both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have had thrust on them. Neither spinner was picked for the Sri Lanka ODIs or the first three against Australia, but while officially ‘rested’, Ashwin will continue to ply his wares in England’s county circuit with Worcestershire.

“You have a heck of a lot of cricket being played,” said Shastri, speaking of India’s schedule for 2018 which includes tours to South Africa, England and Australia. “You have about 25 Test matches being played in the next two years and a similar amount of one-day games and T20I games. You want a guy operating in a mode in a particular format that is very good from the team point of view. If you look at No.1 and 2 bowlers in the world it is Ashwin and Jadeja (They are No. 2 and No. 3 now, with James Anderson having claimed the top spot).

“If you start playing them across all formats, there will be a burnout. The World Cup is still two years away – there’s enough time to get back. They are known quantity. You have to preserve them for what you are looking for. The emphasis should be on Test match cricket as far as they are concerned. They can play across all three formats. How much you want to use a player – is a decision that has to be taken by the team management.”

Shastri was also impressed by Virat Kohli’s evolution as a skipper, and believed the 28-year-old could still learn a lot in coming years. “I think he has evolved magnificently. As a player you can see it in his performances,” he gushed. “As a captain, you can see the way he handles the media, the way he speaks to the media. Self-confidence as an individual – he has evolved there as well. And the respect he gets from his teammates as a captain and player – it is tremendous.

“He is evolving as a captain. I think there is a long way to go. He is only 28, he should be around for another five-six years at least as a skipper. He can learn a heck of a lot. The next three years will really define him, I think already he is right up there, but the next three years will be a great learning curve for him.”

India’s next assignment will begin on September 17 in Chennai, where they will play the first of five ODIs against Australia, followed by three Twenty20 Internationals against the same opponents.