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Never write off a champion: Ponting

Former Australia captain says veteran could have a significant role to play in India’s Champions trophy campaign

Australian legend Ricky Ponting has warned against dismissing MS Dhoni as a dominant force in international cricket, cautioning the Indian's critics to 'never write off a champion player'.

And he's tipped the 35-year-old could have a significant role to play at the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, saying the veteran's game could be perfectly suited to the early-season conditions in the United Kingdom.

Dhoni has been criticised in recent weeks following some low returns for Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League, with former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and even Harsh Goenka - the brother of RPS owner Sanjiv Goenka - enraging Dhoni's adoring Indian fans by questioning his recent performances.

Dhoni, who had captained India in at least one form of the game for more than a decade, no longer leads his country at the top level and was also surprisingly replaced as RPS captain by Australia’s Steve Smith earlier this year.

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Ponting said Dhoni is still adjusting to life without the captaincy and believes the recent criticism is a by-product of all he has achieved in more than 12 years at the highest level.

"I think it's a downside of having the great success that he's had over a long period of time," Ponting told cricket.com.au.

"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.

Keep calm and believe in MS Dhoni

"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.

"It happened with (Glenn) McGrath and (Shane) Warne and all those great players that I was lucky enough to play with.

"He'll find a way and he'll win games for his team.

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"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 admitted he was "surprised" that Dhoni had been relieved of the RPS captaincy and speculated the veteran could be considering the end of his career.

But he added that if Dhoni was willing, a role in the 2019 World Cup in the UK is not out of the question.

"If you think about Dhoni and his age, this might well be his last IPL," Ponting said. "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.

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"We're talking about someone who's 35 years of age and has pretty much achieved everything in the game. He's won a World Cup, he's captained his team to be the No.1 Test team in the world, he's captained IPL-winning teams as well.

"There's not much left for him to achieve out of the game. It's going to come down to how hungry he is and how much he wants it."

While Dhoni's RPS are still in the hunt for the IPL playoffs, the keeper-batsman's next task will come at the Champions Trophy in June.

And while India, the defending champions, are yet to confirm their squad for the tournament, Dhoni is expected to bat in the middle order behind superstars like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

Dhoni has been a mainstay of India's ODI team for more than a decade and has built his reputation on slowly working his way into an innings early on and laying the platform for fireworks in the final overs.

Ponting on the art of coaching

And given the June conditions in the UK are expected to favour swing bowling with the new ball, Ponting says Dhoni's steadying influence could be exactly what India need.

"I think he can be an important player in that Indian team, especially with his experience," Ponting said.

"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. If the ball does a bit early on, there's a chance India could lose top-order wickets and you'd need someone in the middle order to guide the ship."

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