Indian captain makes spirited defence of predecessor, says the criticism he’s faced is not warranted.
Kohli was speaking after India had sealed a 2-1 series win against New Zealand in the Twenty20 International series in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, which followed on the heels of a similar win in the preceding One-Day International series to bring a short and competitive limited-overs tour to an end.
Dhoni’s form had come under scrutiny, particularly after the second T20I in Rajkot, where he found the big hits harder to come by at the start of his innings with India chasing a massive 197. Dhoni did end up scoring 49 off 37, but he upped his scoring only in the latter half of his innings, when the cause was all but lost for India.
“I don't understand why people are only pointing him out. If I fail as a batsman three times, no one is going to point a finger at me because I am not over 35,” said Kohli of his former captain, aged 36 now. “The guy is fit, he is passing all the fitness tests, he is contributing in every way possible tactically with the bat.”
Kohli pointed at the success Dhoni had in India’s two previous limited-overs series, against Australia at home and against Sri Lanka away, to buttress his point, though Dhoni’s good performances in those series came mainly in the ODIs.
“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 I would say,” felt Kohli. “In the Kanpur game (the third ODI, where Dhoni made 25 off 17 after coming in in the 44th over) as well. Look, you have to understand the position he comes into bat, even Hardik (Pandya) could not score in that game, so why are we only pointing out one man? Hardik got out in the last T20 we played in Rajkot as well. We are conveniently just targeting one man which is not fair.
“We have to look at the fact that by the time he comes in, either the required run-rate is eight and a half or nine and a half, and the wicket is also not the same as what it is when the new ball is being bowled,” continued Kohli. “Obviously, the batsmen that are set from the top, they find it easier to strike the ball straightaway than the guys who come lower down the order. Also, the kind of wicket that we have played on, the wear and tear has been much more in the later half. You have to assess everything.”
On the eve of the third T20I, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had said that the team management had “no concerns whatsoever” about Dhoni’s form, and Kohli emphasised that again.
“As team members and management, we understand the situation the people go into bat. We don't get emotional and excited from opinions of people of who are looking at things from a different point of view,” he said. “When you are on the field, you understand what the wicket is behaving like and what situation you are in. I think he (Dhoni) is doing absolutely fine. He is working hard on his game, he understands his role, but it does not come off every time.
“When he hit a six in Delhi it was shown five times on the post-match show, everybody got really happy, and now that he suddenly doesn't score runs in one game everybody is after his life. People need to be bit more patient. He is a guy who understands where his cricket is. He is a very smart guy, and he understands where he stands with his body and his game. So, I don't think anybody else has the right to decide it for him.”