India v Pakistan, World T20 2016, Group 2, Kolkata March 19, 2016

Dhoni credits singles for Kohli's success under pressure

ESPNcricinfo staff

India captain MS Dhoni has said Virat Kohli's ability to rotate strike is the key to converting starts into big scores in pressure situations after Kohli's unbeaten 55 off 37 balls took India to a six-wicket win over Pakistan at Eden Gardens on Saturday.

Kohli arrived in the third over with the score on 14 for 1 and had only faced two deliveries by the time India fell to 23 for 3 in the fifth over in pursuit of Pakistan's 118, but Dhoni said Kohli thrived in such situations by not depending on boundaries to get himself and the team out of trouble. Up until the ninth over, Kohli had only struck one boundary but had taken nine singles in his first 13 deliveries in partnership with Yuvraj Singh to add the first 31 runs in a 61-run stand that took India within striking distance of victory. In all, Kohli scored off 28 of his 37 deliveries, including 19 singles.

"It's very simple. What an innings is all about is how you convert it, when you're under pressure," Dhoni said after the win. "There are a few ways to handle pressure. At times we have seen, in Test cricket, or ODI and T20 format, when there is a lot of pressure, often they go for the big shot. It seems at that point of time that that's the best option, but when you're under a lot of pressure, the best way to deal with it is to take a single, go to the other end, because that calms you down, and at the same time you have that positive intent because you're looking for that single. And you know your areas.

"Everybody knows what their strength is - for some it's a flick, for some it's the cut. So if it's in your area, you have to play your shot. If not, try to take a single, go to the other end. And if you see his batting, that's what he really does. And where he has an edge over the others is, you have to push hard. That's why he loves batting with individuals who can run hard with him. Because running hard is the easiest way to score runs. You hit it in the middle, between long-on and deep midwicket, if you have two good runners, you can convert that one into two, or one-and-a-half runs into two, and that puts a lot of pressure on the bowler and the fielders."

The other ingredient to success that Dhoni attributed to Kohli is his "hunger to perform". Dhoni said Kohli's preparation habits enabled him to consistently score runs rather than going through dips in form.

"He takes everything as a challenge," Dhoni said. "He wants to improve, he wants to contribute in each and every game, and that's what it's all about, because he wants to contribute, he wants to score runs, he prepares well, he takes care of his fitness. He knows, he understands now, in different wickets how he's supposed to bat and score runs. And we all know, once he gets going, once he gets a start, he always converts it into a big innings, which I feel is one of the most important things for any youngster coming into the game."

MS Dhoni attributes Kohli's ability to thrive under pressure to his eagerness for taking singles © IDI/Getty Images

Kohli's success helped shield the problems faced by other batsmen on the day, in particular Suresh Raina who was out first ball to Mohammad Sami. The left-hander has struggled recently, scoring 1 in two of his previous three T20I innings. However, Dhoni deflected questions about Raina's form and said the team still had confidence in him.

"People don't score runs in one or two games, that question will be asked," Dhoni said. "If Shikhar doesn't score in one more game that question will be asked, why not Jinks to open and Shikhar left out. I feel it is important to back players and at the same time, if you see there are too many people who need to bat at that No. 3 slot.

"If you compare the stats, especially when it's happening in India, you'll see there are lot of individuals who should bat at three, but Virat gets an edge, and in the same way I think [Raina] deserves that No. 4 position more than anyone else, and it's important to back him. Yes, there might be tactical changes when he won't get that slot, but overall I think he's the best option."

Dhoni also gave credit to his spinners for exploiting conditions after winning the toss and inserting Pakistan to bat first. The India captain said the amount of time the pitch spent covered due to rain throughout of the day was a strong factor in his decision-making, though he was surprised at the amount of turn so early in the match. At the same time, he also explained his reasoning for not bowling out R Ashwin despite the trouble caused by Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja early in the match.

"Initially we never thought it would turn so much. Reading the wicket, I thought there was a bit of moisture because they had watered the wicket yesterday and I don't think they got enough sun today. The last time when I saw the wicket was before the start of the game, and then it was quite damp. And even when you roll the wicket, the top surface may look a bit good, but it's more a cosmetic thing, because underneath there was a lot of moisture.

"I feel it was because of the moisture that the spinners were getting a lot of turn. Even the ones that were bowling it quite hard, if you hit the seam you can turn the ball, and that's what Jadeja and Ashwin did. The Pakistan batsmen, they are good players of spin bowling, and later on I felt, there was a chance, if I had given it to Ashwin they could have gone after him. I'm not saying he can't deal with it, but I went for the safer option."

While Dhoni said he is proud of India's historic unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups and World T20s, he said it's not something they take for granted.

"There is also a reality that one day we will lose - whether it is today or in ten years or 20 years or 50 years. There is no such thing that you will always keep winning. Also, our team has evolved a lot, and somehow in ICC events our performances have been good of late, whether it's the last Champions Trophy or the World Cup. We have given pretty good performances, so that also plays a role. I feel we have played good cricket, and that's the reason."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arun on March 21, 2016, 17:29 GMT

    I suspect that Kohli has now become the bogeyman for Pak. Just as Sachin was before him and Gavaskar was before Sachin. Pak team has incredible raw talent but they need to play more at the international level to polish off the raw edges.

  • ShAbii143 on March 21, 2016, 10:15 GMT

    Strange to see people questioning on Dhoni....behonest kholi is top calss batsmen but i don't think so he can be a good captain..India lost couple of series when kholi was captain even in asia cup aswel..why Dhoni still save because his team are winning when they start losing and Dhoni didnt performed then gonna be same story as afridi facing at the moment..afridi not performing team losing so both think bad for afridi, if team winning then no body gonna question on afridi performance so i would say unlucky afridi...

  • Ashik on March 21, 2016, 1:31 GMT

    The comments keeping coming that Kohli faced only 4 balls from Amir. No body talks about that he hit one boundary out of the 4 balls he faced. Also note Amir alone can't win game for Pakistan.

  • Dik on March 21, 2016, 0:07 GMT

    Key to success is avoiding Amir. He only faced Amir 4 balls.

  • blahblah1234567_9F5B2346-4AB1-446E-A1A0-77E2268CE43B on March 20, 2016, 18:09 GMT

    opening and number 4 are very important slots if you look at other teams they have qdk guptill khawaja gayle dilshan and at number 4 you have ab de Villiers Anderson warner etc these are important slots you can't waste them on passengers like raina and dhawan

  • Cricinfouser on March 20, 2016, 14:24 GMT

    Dhoni's captaincy has always been just about average and worse, he has always supported only certain players even if they failed repeatedly. Dhoni however was an exceptional batsmen and until a few years back, he covered up for the failures of his favoured players with his own brilliant batting. The average Indian fan confused brilliant batting with outstanding captaincy, which led to dhoni's reputation of being a great captain. It is in the last few years when dhoni's batting is not as effective and destructive as before that the repeated failures of his favourites is being exposed badly and people are now realising that even his captaincy isn't really all that great.

  • Sathyanarayan on March 20, 2016, 13:45 GMT

    India Wins. So far so good. But objectively looking at the performance 1) this pitch in Eden Garden, if it behaves like this in the finals. it will be a damp squib. WB Cricket Association and Ganguly have to make the pitch more batsman friendly; 2) Amazing attitude of Virat Kohli - The hunger to succeed. Any other takers in the Indian side who can emulate that attitude? be it bowlers or batsman in terms of preparation and the introspective analysis to adapt to the conditions and modify your game as per the conditions and the bowling. One of the things is that our left handed opener Shikhar Dhawan is not technically sound to handle quality bowlers in difficult pitches kind of like Gautham Gambhir. Dhawan has to work on his technique especially his stance, posture, feet movement and head movement. Dhawan needs to learn to rotate the strike. Raina has to play straight rather across for the first 5 to 10 balls.

  • Rajvir on March 20, 2016, 13:33 GMT

    Yogi u spot on target.. i m also not happy with dhoni..Yes u r right india need Batsmens like Ajinkye rahane, Rohit and Virat Kolhi, to play like test cricket which this three players must be top to make records in t20.. playing all 100 balls and scoring 90 to 100 runs.. if any other 10 balls left Yuvraj and dhoni will hit 40 runs.. and total will be around 120 to 140.. Scorecard wii be (rahane.. 48(50 Balls) and kohli 50(5O balls).. Yuvraj.. 20(10balls).. Dhoni 20(10balls)...Now u tell me how India is going to win.... Only one possibility that depends on Captain Ms Dhoni... that's why Ms Dhoni is best captain in the World.. Followed by Imran Khan..

  • Pony on March 20, 2016, 13:22 GMT

    @DHONIABDEVILLIERS:Rohit has no place in tests,Raina has not done much in ODIs and Warner is a hitting machine in T20,ODI and tests.

  • Rajvir on March 20, 2016, 12:57 GMT

    Hasim Amla ,Virat Kohli, Rohit sharma and Ainkya Rahane are best for single(TEST)...... David Warner, Suresh raina, Shikar dhawan are best for boundries(ODI)..... Ab devilliers, Ms Dhoni, D Miller, Yuvraj Singh, and Afridi for sixes(T20).....

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