MS Dhoni and Shoaib Akhtar shake hands after a cricket match.
For Indian cricket fans, MS Dhoni is a cult figure. But ever since his omission from the central contracts by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), there is a growing fear that the end may be near for MSD.
Dhoni, who only plays in limited-overs formats, has not featured for India since their exit in the 2019 World Cup. Since then the Indian cricket team, despite trying out various options, has failed to find an able replacement behind the stumps left open by the 38-year-old.
What also hampered India's progress in the shorter formats was a player who could play the role of a finisher, something Dhoni was a master of.
However, following India’s come-from-behind series win over Australia recently, Manish Pandey’s name has started doing the rounds as somebody who comes close to Dhoni’s finishing skills.
While, the 30-year-old has not made any significant contributions with the bat, his handy knocks towards the end of the innings have caught the eye of former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar. In the third T20I against Sri Lanka in Pune before the Australia series, Pandey’s 31 not out off 18 balls at No.4
Stating Pandey has it in him to fill the shoes of Dhoni, Akhtar on his YouTube channel, said: “Hindustan ko akhir Dhoni ka replacement mil gya (India has finally got Dhoni’s replacement), they have found a good fit in Manish Pandey. Shreyas Iyer too looks a complete player and these add depth to India’s batting.”
‘They know how to handle pressure,’ the 44-year-old said before adding, “They do not care about big names and hence, end up playing important innings. I think it was a great series, characters were shown, players were willing to fight."
"Even when the innings ended, Iyer and Pandey were speaking about the batting while they were walking off the field. These players understand the game, they keep discussing the game,” Akhtar explained.