Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif is confident that it won’t be difficult for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make a comeback in the Indian team despite not having played competitive cricket for almost a year.

Dhoni played his last game for India in the 2019 World Cup semi-final loss in July and has been out of action since then. The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman was expected to make a comeback during the 2020 Indian Premier League before the T20 tournament was indefinitely postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Former players such as Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohammad Azharuddin and few others had predicted that it would be tough for Dhoni to make his international comeback but Kaif doesn’t feel so. Kaif said Dhoni is irreplaceable in the Indian team due to his match-winning abilities.

“People think that there is a gap and had he played in the IPL it would have been easier for him to make a comeback. But I don’t think so,” Kaif told the The Times of India..

“Dhoni is such a big player, he is a proper match-winner who knows how to play under pressure at number 6 and 7 and he is absolutely fit. So in my mind Dhoni is the number one player. No matter how many players come, you cannot replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni, because I think that if you remove someone, then another player should be ready. And he scored runs in that World Cup match against New Zealand and had a good partnership with Jadeja. He played well in that match and almost won us the game,” he added.

Kaif also felt that the Indian team has not been able to fill Dhoni’s void despite giving opportunities to many players. Rishabh Pant was touted as Dhoni’s successor but after failing to impress, KL Rahul emerged as an alternative for India in the limited-overs format.

Kaif added that the former India captain should not be sidelined in a hurry as he still remains the best wicket-keeper.

“There has been no replacement. So many players have been tried in place of Dhoni.”

“I don’t think KL Rahul is a long-term option. He should always be the back-up wicket-keeper, if a keeper gets injured then Rahul should keep wickets. So you have to groom another keeper. Even Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson haven’t been able to take the place of Dhoni.

“When you talk of Sachin [Tendulkar], [Rahul] Dravid, you have had replacements like [Virat] Kohli, Rohit [Sharma], [Ajinkya] Rahane, [Cheteshwar] Pujara. They have filled that void. But it hasn’t been the case with Dhoni. So I think Dhoni is still the number one wicket-keeper. He is amazingly fit and he should not be sidelined in a hurry,” Kaif added.