Amongst the questions being raised on MS Dhoni and his place in the T20I side, Indian skipper Virat Kohli has come out in defence of the wicket-keeper, pointing out his importance to the side and his fitness levels despite the age.
“First, I don’t understand why are people only pointing him out, I’m not able to understand this,” Kohli said at the post match press conference after India’s victory in the rain-curtailed decider in Thiruvananthapuram. “If I fail three times, no one is going to point fingers at me because I’m not over 35. The guy is fit, he is passing all the fitness tests, he is contributing to the team in every way possible, tactically on the field, with the bat. If you look at the series against Sri Lanka and Australia, he did really well and in this series he hasn’t got much time to bat.”
The former Indian captain faced criticism after the hosts lost the second T20I in Rajkot, with ex-cricketers doubting his place in the T20I side. Dhoni walked in to bat at #6 with India at 67/4, requiring 130 runs in under 11 overs and he was dismissed in the final over of the game for 49. In the innings, Dhoni scored 26 runs in boundaries, which included three fours and two sixes but managed only 23 runs from the remaining 32 deliveries. But Kohli asserted that match circumstances need to be taken into consideration before raising questions.
“You have to understand, the position in which he comes out to bat, even Hardik (Pandya) could not score in that game,” Kohli said. “Then why are we only pointing out one man? Hardik also got out in the last T20 that we played in Rajkot. We are conveniently targeting only one man which is not fair. We also have to look at the fact that by the time he comes in, either the run rate is already eight-and-a-half or nine-and-a-half and the wicket is also not the same when the new ball is bowled.
“Also, the batsmen who are set from the top, they find it easier to strike the ball straightaway compared to the guys who come lower down the order. And the kind of wicket that we have played on, the wear and tear has been much more in the latter half. You have to assess everything.
“As team management and players, we understand the situations in which he goes out to bat. We don’t get emotional and excited by the opinions of people who are looking at things from a different point of view. If you are playing, you know how the wicket is and what the situation is like. So, I think he is doing absolutely fine. He understands his game, he understands his role, but it doesn’t come off every time. He hit a six in Delhi and it was shown five times in the post-match show. Everyone got really happy. And suddenly he doesn’t score in one game and we are after his life. I think people need to be a bit more patient. He’s a guy who understands various cricketers. He’s a very smart guy. He understands where he stands with his body, with his game. So I don’t think anyone else has the right to decide that for him.”