Melbourne: Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting has warned against writing off Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a dominant force in international cricket, adding that the former Indian captain has a significant role to play in the upcoming Champions Trophy, which is to be held in England and Wales from June 2.
35-year-old Dhoni came under fire in the wake of his recent low performances for the Rising Pune Supergiant in the ongoing tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
After managing mere 61 runs in the first five matches of the tournament, the Indian batsman rebounded strongly and went on to smash a match-winning unbeaten knock of 61 off just 34 balls during his side's six-wicket win against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
He, however, scored just 30 runs in the next two matches, thus giving his critics more reasons to point fingers towards him.
Cautioning the Indian's critics to 'never write off a champion player' like Dhoni, Ponting expressed confidence that that latter would surely bounce back strongly from his lean phase and play a big role in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
"I think it's a downside of having the great success that he's had over a long period of time. I've been there myself and when you start to slide just a little bit, criticism is going to come your way. And to be fair, he probably hasn't had much negativity come his way over the past 15 or 20 years. So it'll be really interesting to see how he handles that over the coming weeks," cricket.com.au quoted Ponting as saying.
"Things can turn around in this game pretty quickly and one thing I've learned in this game with champion players is to never write them off. They always find a way to keep coming back. He'll find a way and he'll win games for his team," he added.
While defending champions India are yet to confirm their squad for the tournament, Ponting believes Dhoni's game could be perfectly suited to the early-season conditions in the United Kingdom.
"I think he can be an important player in that Indian team, especially with his experience. Batting in the middle order, he's someone who can really control a one-day innings. And that might be what you need in England," Ponting said.
The former Australian skipper also expressed his surprise over Rising Pune Supergiant's decision to replace Dhoni with Steve Smith as the skipper of the team.
"If you think about Dhoni and his age, this might well be his last IPL. There's no basis to me saying that. It just seemed like a strange time to move him on as captain if he wasn't coming towards the end. Obviously they've made a decision that they think is right for that team and Steve Smith taking over was what the hierarchy and the coaching staff thought was the right thing to do," he said.
Insisting that it is entirely up to Dhoni to take call on his retirement, Ponting also hailed the way the Indian star led one of the most demanding teams in the world.
"I'm pretty sure he's got quite a thick skin. He's grown up with unbelievable pressure on him as captain of India for a long time. He's had some great moments in his career and right now he's probably not playing at his absolute best, but it's still there. I'm not ever going to tell anyone when it's time to go or retire. That's up to the champions to make their own mind up," Ponting said.
Considered as the most-decorated captain in the history of Indian cricket, Dhoni led the country to two World Cup titles, a Champions Trophy title besides also guiding them to the top spot in Test cricket for the first time in 2009.