India captain Virat Kohli has spoken out in support of MS Dhoni, pointing to his importance in the team and emphasising on Dhoni's fitness despite his age. Questions were raised about Dhoni's strike rate and his inability to being able to clear the boundary the way he used to, after a 37-ball 49 in the second T20 in Rajkot where India were unable to chase down 197 on a flat track. Kohli himself scored a fighting 65 off 42 balls but Dhoni could not strike at a similar rate.
"First, I don't understand why are people only pointing him out, I'm not able to understand this," Kohli said on Tuesday after the third T20I against New Zealand 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."
Questions have also been raised about Dhoni's batting position. He usually bats at Nos 5 or 6, giving him less time to build a knock in the latter half of an innings. In the second T20I in Rajkot, Dhoni walked out at No. 6 when India were 67 for 4 and needed 130 runs in just under 11 overs. Kohli believed the criticism against Dhoni for that innings was unfair as the asking rate had already shot up past 11 an over when he came out to bat.
"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."