'Dhoni still a very integral part of this team' - Kohli
India captain says Dhoni is trying to help the younger players by giving them "more chances" to strut their stuff
Less than a week after MS Dhoni was left out of India's T20I squad, Virat Kohli has said he remains an integral part of India's plans.
Dhoni was left out of India's T20 squad for the upcoming home series against West Indies and, more significantly, India's tour of Australia. Chief selector MSK Prasad had said then that it was not the end of the road for Dhoni in T20Is, and now he has received something of a backing statement from Kohli. After the fifth ODI in Thiruvananthapuram, the India captain suggested that Dhoni was just allowing young players more opportunities and there wasn't anything more to the story.
"He's still a very integral part of this team," Kohli said. "He just feels that in the T20 format, someone like Rishabh [Pant] can get more chances. He anyway plays the ODIs for us regularly, so... from that point of view, he's only trying to help the youngsters, nothing that other people are thinking. I, as captain, can certainly assure you of that."
Kohli's suggestion is in congruence with Prasad's statement during the squad announcement, with India looking ahead to the World T20 in 2020. India have picked three uncapped players (Krunal Pandya, S Nadeem and Khaleel Ahmed) for the two upcoming series, aside from bringing back the likes of Shreyas Iyer and Washington Sundar to the squads.
"The T20Is here and in Australia, he [Dhoni] is not going to play, because we are also looking at a second wicketkeeper," Prasad had said at the press conference on October 26. "That will be between Rishabh and Dinesh Karthik. So they will be getting a chance to keep and bat."
Kohli said that the selectors had spoken with Dhoni about the whole process, although he wasn't personally part of that meeting. "I think the selectors have already addressed this, if I'm not wrong. And he's been spoken to, firstly... so, I don't see any reason why I should be sitting here and explaining that.
"I think the selectors have come out and explained exactly what happened. I was not part of that conversation, so it is what the selector explained. I think people are putting too much variables into the situation, which is not the case. I can assure you of that."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo