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Kohli and Dhoni

‘Fortunate to have a mind like that’ – Virat Kohli lauds MS Dhoni

Virat Kohli, the India captain, has launched a stern defence of former captain MS Dhoni, saying it was “unfortunate to see so many people going after him”.

Dhoni may be one of India’s most successful captains, but he’s had a thin rope with the fan base of late. Till his form improved at the turn of the year, there were plenty questioning his place in the side, even suggesting that he was detrimental to the team’s hopes at the upcoming ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

Dhoni has been in exceptional form this year: in nine ODIs, he has scored 327 runs, hitting four half-centuries, three of them in a row during the tour of Australia.

Kohli also revealed the crucial role Dhoni plays in field placements and strategies, and said as captain, he was fortunate to have “a mind like that” to rely on.

"He [Dhoni] is one person who knows the game inside out, who understands the game from ball one to 300 on the field," Kohli told India Today. "I won't say it is a luxury to have him, but I am fortunate to have a mind like that behind the stumps. At the end of the day, I want to be involved in strategy with the team management with Mahi bhai and Rohit [Sharma].

"It's just about the field placements and bowling changes. We say, ‘you know the angles, you know the pace of the pitch’, and that's why there is so much trust and respect between the two of us.

"It's unfortunate to see so many people going after him. You look at what he's done for the country, no one can [gift] him that space, he deserves it."

While Dhoni’s expertise from behind the stumps will be crucial for India, there is still a question mark over where he will bat. The No.4 role seems a possibility, although there is plenty of competition for that role. India have tried out a lot of players, and with the inclusions of Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar and KL Rahul in the 15 for the World Cup, they are no closer to arriving at a conclusion.

Kohli said that decision would be taken closer to the tournament. “There were a few combinations that we tried," he said. "Eventually, when Vijay [Shankar] came in, it was three dimensional – he can bowl, he can field, he can bat. He is a proper batsman.

“That just gave us an option, saying why not have that kind of balance, which other teams have had all these years. From that point of view, we all agreed on it. We are pretty sorted with how we want to go about the World Cup. Obviously, who bats where is the decision for later.”

Kohli also lauded the spin twins, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, saying their contribution in the middle overs is the reason India have managed contain teams at the death.

“To give credit to both of them, the things that they have done in the last two years … outstanding,” said Kohli. “For two youngsters to come out and bowl with such confidence, and such flair, that's actually been the most important factor for us winning so many games. They are taking wickets in the middle overs, which we were lacking for a long, long time. We never struggled with the death overs purely because of what they do in the middle overs.”

India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on 5 June.

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