Virat Kohli hits out at critics, says it's unfair to target Dhoni
Kohli described Dhoni as a 'very smart guy' and said that nobody has the right to make decisions that Dhoni ought to make for himself.
In an act of defiance and staunch resistance, India captain Virat Kohli came out in defense of wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni after the latter was criticized for his supposedly slow innings in the second T20I vs New Zealand in Rajkot. Chasing 197 for victory, Dhoni could manage 49 runs off 37 balls and wasn't able to play the big shots and keep the asking rate in check for most parts of the innings. Kohli's innings of 65 off 42 also seemed to be affected by Dhoni's inability to put the pressure on the opposition from the other end. India lost the match by 40 runs.
"First, I don't understand why are people only pointing him out, I'm not able to understand this. If I fail three times, no one is going to point fingers at me because I'm not over 35," Kohli said after India's series-winning effort in the third T20I in Thiruvananthapuram.
"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 skipper added.
Dhoni's batting position has also come under scrutiny as batting him lower down the order - at No. 5 or 6 - doesn't seem to have gelled well with the change in his game and his declining ability to strike from the word go. The former captain walked out at No. 6 in Rajkot with India four down for 67 runs, still needing 130 runs in less than 11 overs.
"You have to understand, the position in which he comes out to bat, even Hardik [Pandya] could not score in that game," Kohli said, pointing out that the asking rate had shot up to more than 11 runs per over when Dhoni came out to bat.
"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."
The openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan could not give the team a good start, something that was critical to chasing a big total. Both openers were dismissed in the second over of the innings having added only 11 runs to the scorecard.
"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," Kohli explained how difficult the match situation was.
Notwithstanding all of this, Dhoni received flak from all corners and things even slipped to an extent that former cricketer VVS Laxman had to call for Dhoni's retirement from the shortest format of the game after the game. But Kohli and the team management do not weigh in the public perception and emotions attached to the player before making decisions.
"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," Kohli said.
"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."