From left: Bengal Tigers team mentor Anis Sajan, former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan, skipper Sam Billings and Stephen Fleming talk during the gala night party at the Taj Hotel. Image Credit: Bengal Tigers

Sharjah: Stephen Fleming, the decorated coach of Bengal Tigers, strongly feels that former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni should be part of the Indian squad for the 2019 World Cup.

In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Fleming, who was the coach of the Dhoni-led hugely successful Chennai Super Kings team in the Indian Premier League (IPL), said: “I think India have enough options within their squad to include Dhoni because his strength is immeasurable. Watching him in the last IPL, his batting was as good as it has been. He needs to have the confidence to go and play like that in the One Day Internationals and I think the big stage is something he is looking forward to. I know he has targeted World Cup and the opportunity if he gets there he should.”

Fleming, regarded as one of New Zealand’s best-ever captains, feels that big players can slip into phases of lack of confidence. “It’s funny isn’t it for a guy who has played so much that he still needs confidence and no fear? That is what Dhoni likes and he should play with confidence and no fear. He has amazing experience and he has got the ability to rise to occasion. As you get bit older, you don’t pick and choose but you need big opportunities to be at your best,” added Fleming.

An admirer of Virat Kohli, whom the New Zealander saw in action closely during the IPL, Fleming said: “Kohli is phenomenal and his ability to absorb pressure and chase scores is second to none really and the numbers he is putting on leading the way is brilliant. There are groups of players like [Kane] Williamson, Kohli, [Joe] Root and Steve Smith when he comes back. And they are all wonderful players and group of batters, who are marvellous to watch,” he said.

When asked to compare Kohli with Tendulkar, Fleming said: “It is very hard to compare eras but you look at statistic and there is not much difference. Tendulkar did it for so long so Kohli’s challenge is to maintain this standard for the rest of his career. Tendulkar was so good so long and so to emulate him is not easy. But Kohli is on the way but how long he can maintain that intensity, along with captaincy, needs to be seen. There is more cricket played now than before but Kohli is an incredibly fit man and right now he is certainly putting numbers up to equal to what Tendulkar did.”

Commenting about the New Zealand team that is in UAE and qualities needed to do well against Pakistan to wrap up the Test series, Fleming said: “This is one of the most skilful teams we have got here. A little bit of rebuilding is going on and we have got skipper Williamson doing his best with experienced players like Ross Taylor. What they are missing is the confidence to bat for long periods of time in the sub-continent. The understanding to do that is what is needed so they can bat long periods of time.

“Remember, it takes time to win games in Asia and for that you need to have good defence. This is one of the challenges in modern day cricket. The art of defence is slowly being diminished and that is one of the challenges why teams like New Zealand, Australia and England get tested here,” he added.