Dharamsala: India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday yet again showered praise on M.S. Dhoni, saying there is no replacement for experience for the 38-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman who has, on many instances, shown that age is just a number.
Following the World Cup in England, Dhoni first made himself unavailable for the limited-overs series against the West Indies and then opted out of the T20I series against South Africa beginning on Sunday.
“Experience is always going to matter whether you like it or not. Many players have proven in the past that age is just a number and even Dhoni has done that a lot in his career,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the first T20I.
“One thing great about him is that he thinks for Indian cricket. When to stop playing cricket, is completely an individual decision. No one should give opinions regarding the matter,” he added.
Voices have grown in the cricket fraternity for Dhoni’s retirement following the World Cup where he was criticised heavily for his slow batting.
In recent times, Kohli added fuel to Dhoni’s retirement speculations after he posted a picture with Dhoni on Instagram. The 30-year-old remembered the 2016 T20 World Cup match against Australia and said that Dhoni made him run like in a fitness test.
One thing great about him [Dhoni] is that he thinks for Indian cricket. When to stop playing cricket, is completely an individual decision.
However, Kohli was quick to clear the intention behind that social media post and said: “I did not have anything on my mind, I was just sitting at my home and I just uploaded the picture. It became news. It is a lesson for me about what I think about myself, the world does not necessarily see it that way.”
“That game is very special, I have not openly talked about it so that is why I uploaded the picture but people took it otherwise,” he added.
Following that post from Kohli, netizens were quick to draw conclusions and rumours about Dhoni’s retirement flooded the internet. But, later, the Board of Control for Cricket in India chief selector MSK Prasad cleared the air, saying that the rumours were untrue and that the board was not aware of such news.
Talking about the upcoming series, Kohli said the team management wants to give opportunities to guys who have been performing well in the domestic circuit with a roadmap to build the team for next year’s World T20.
“We wanted to give opportunities to players who have done well for the past two years in the domestic circuit and T20 cricket in the IPL. It is about finding the best possible balance we can for the side and not necessarily stick to one particular type of balance. If other teams can bat till number nine, so why cannot we? Whatever decisions are made, they are made looking at the future,” Kohli added.
“The first two to three T20I series will help us assess every situation. Definitely the roadmap for T20 World Cup in 2020 is on our mind. It is an exciting prospect looking at the new bunch of guys in our line-up,” he added.
Catch the match:
India vs South Africa
First T20 International, at Dharamsala
Match starts 5.30pm (UAE time)
Live telecast on BeIn Sports