India's Rohit Sharma
India's Rohit Sharma celebrates after scoring a century during the World Cup match against Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, on July 6, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Manchester: For Team India skipper Virat Kohli, his former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and in-form vice-captain Rohit Sharma are like his left and right arm. He wants Sharma to make it to seven centuries — with one each in the semi-final and probably the final too while he also hopes to make full use of the guidance from Dhoni.

Kohli made it clear on the eve of their semi-final that he is not particularly bothered about not having hit a century himself. “It’s been a different kind of role that I’ve had to play in this World Cup and as the captain of the team, I have been open to playing any kind of role that the team wants me to.

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“It’s great that Rohit is scoring so consistently, which also means that coming in the later half of the innings, you’ve got to play a different role — controlling the middle overs and letting guys like Hardik (Pandya), Kedar (Jadhav) and MS (Dhoni) in the past few games and now Rishabh (Pant), come out and express themselves. Personal milestones, honestly, is something that no one ever focuses on. I hope he (Rohit) gets two more so we can win two more games (smiling). It’s an outstanding achievement. I have never seen anyone get five hundreds in a World Cup or in any tournament. The World Cup is a more pressured tournament, and he has been outstanding and he deserves all the credit. According to me, he is the top ODI player in the world at the moment.”

Talking about Dhoni, are they planning a big send-off for Dhoni by winning the World Cup for him, as they did for Sachin Tendulkar? “I’m sure if you asked anyone in the team about him (Dhoni), they will all have special things to say; especially for us who started our careers under him. That respect will always be there because of the opportunities he gave you, the faith he showed in us and the way he’s handled the whole team in transition over so many years.

“Now we are the ones who are taking Indian cricket forward. We understand the importance of that process. So I’m glad you asked about MS, the personality because a lot has been in focus otherwise,” was Kohli’s calculated response.

He then went on to talk about how much Dhoni meant to the team. “When a person has done so much for the team, we need to appreciate and acknowledge that fact, especially what he’s done for Indian cricket, how he’s handled Indian cricket and taken the respect for Indian cricket so high all over the world.

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni, left, performs stretching exercises during a training session at Old Trafford in Manchester, on July 8, 2019. Image Credit: AP

“He’s been in a very happy and jovial mood all the time, and yesterday again (Dhoni’s birthday) was a very happy moment for him and the whole team. Currently, he is in a very happy space.”

About his personal equation with Dhoni, Kohli remarked: “Respect for MS is always going to be sky-high, because I know how difficult it can be to make a transition of captaining within the same team; from being a captain for so many years and then a player, he is still not too assertive or pushy in anything. He gives you space to make your own decisions and to actually discover yourself; that, to me, has been his biggest quality.

“I go ask him anything and he’s there to give advice and he’s never shying away from that. I’m delighted that I have been able to play alongside him for so many years.”