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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

‘No one should give opinions,’ Virat Kohli’s strong message on MS Dhoni retirement reports

Ahead of the first T20I against South Africa, India captain Virat Kohli reacted strongly to the MS Dhoni retirement reports

cricket Updated: Sep 14, 2019 18:06 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
MS Dhoni (L) and Virat Kohli (R)
MS Dhoni (L) and Virat Kohli (R)(Action Images via Reuters)

If a picture says a thousand words, then it also opens the possibility of interpreting or misinterpreting it a thousand ways. Virat Kohli knows it well. A tweet from the Indian captain on Thursday, with a picture of him kneeling down in front of MS Dhoni during a 2016 World T20 match against Australia and this caption—“A game I can never forget. Special night. This man, made me run like in a fitness test”—had the rumour mills churning overtime. Was that a hint that MS Dhoni is retiring? Already a burning topic, the tweet added plenty more fuel. So much so that Dhoni’s wife Sakshi made a rare intervention on twitter to try and quell it with a tweet of her own.

Also Read: Rohit Sharma on cusp of another T20I record in Dharamsala

A year before another T20 World Cup in Australia, Dhoni’s absence from the Indian dressing room since the World Cup in England and the rise of the young Rishabh Pant is being seen by many as a gradual process of India’s most successful captain phasing himself out of the game.

Kohli, on the eve of India’s first T20 against South Africa, kept the possibility of it hanging with an open-ended answer.

“When you decide to stop playing is an absolutely individual thing, and no one else should have an opinion on it, that’s what I think,” Kohli said, when asked about whether Dhoni would feature in India’s plans for the 2020 World T20. “As long as he (Dhoni) is available and continues to play, he is going to be very, very valuable,” Kohli said.

The operative word here is “available”; in the two series following the World Cup (the West Indies tour and at this South Africa T20 series) Dhoni made himself ‘unavailable’ for selection, according to chief selector MSK Prasad.

A “lesson” for Kohli

Kohli was quick to dismiss the notion that his tweet was an indication of where Dhoni’s career might be headed in the near future. “Mere zehen mein kuch naahi thaa (I had nothing on my mind). I was sitting at home and I normally put out a photograph and it became a news item. I think it was a lesson for me, that the way I think, the whole world doesn’t think that way,” he said.

Also Read: ‘We want to win every game’: Kohli reveals team’s mindset going into series

“There was nothing in the farthest stretch of my imagination (that it could be taken as retirement tribute) while putting that picture out on social media. I remember that game even now, every now and then. I never spoke about that game and so I thought to put up a post. People interpreted it in a different manner in which there wasn’t even an iota of truth.”

In the 2016 World T20 game that Kohli tweeted about, Dhoni came to the crease with India in a tricky position; 94/4 in 14 overs, chasing a 162-run target set by Australia. The Dhoni-Kohli duo took India to the semi-finals, as they ran the Australians down with singles and twos. Kohli stayed unbeaten on 82, with 48 of those runs coming from boundaries. Dhoni scored 18* off 10 with three boundaries.

Dhoni’s famous finishing abilities in the shorter formats of the game has increasingly come under scrutiny lately, but the Indian team management has backed Dhoni’s leadership and tactical acumen.

“Look experience is always going to matter whether you like it or not,” Kohli said. “I mean there are a numerous number of times people have given up on sportsmen and they have proved people wrong. He (Dhoni) has done that many times in his career as well.”

A mentoring role

Dhoni may not have retired, but Kohli hinted at his changing role within the team.

“One great thing about him is that he thinks for Indian cricket,” Kohli said. “And whatever we think, he is on the same page. The kind of mindset he has had…to groom youngsters and give them opportunities…he is still the same person.”

Also Read: Why is du Plessis not playing against India despite turning out for county side Kent?

The India captain added that experimentations will continue to find the ideal combination leading up to the World T20 in Australia in October-November next year. India are scheduled to play around 30 T20Is from now till then.

“As far as roadmap is concerned, whenever there is a world tournament coming up, it is a like a milestone and you start preparing backwards,” he said. “These are opportunities where we can try various combinations with new people around…check their ability, character, and composure to perform at the international level. From that point of view, (it is) exciting for a captain to try different players and check out combinations. We have all come through that process and I feel happy when I see these new faces emerging and expressing themselves.”

First Published: Sep 14, 2019 15:23 IST

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