Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday struggled to get going with the bat once again before a last-over flourish saw him reach his 72nd one-day international fifty against the West Indies at Old Trafford in Manchester.
The veteran keeper-batsman has drawn criticism for his slow scoring rate in this World Cup, however he found skipper Virat Kohli's backing at the end of a thumping 125-run win.
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"Anybody can have off-days. When he (Dhoni) has off-days, everybody starts talking. We back him, and the best thing is when you need extra 15-20 runs in the end, he does that well," Kohli said.
"He knows how to bat with the tail. His experience, eight out of 10 times, works for us. We have quite a few players who play instinctive cricket. He's one guy who sends out a message on what the par score is on a pitch. If he says 265 is a good score on a pitch, we don't aim for 300 and end up scoring 230. He's a legend for us, and hopefully he'll continue," Kohli added.
Dhoni had a rare off-day in the office with the keeping gloves but his one-handed stunner to dismiss Carlos Brathwaite off Jasprit Bumrah stood out.
India dethroned England to rise to the top of One-Day International (ODI) rankings and Kohli said he was happy with his team’s overall performance. “I can’t complain, we just became No. 1 yesterday as far as rankings are concerned, to be honest, we are playing that way for a while, need to continue that way. Things haven’t gone our way with the bat in the last two games, but we have still done well to win, that’s being the most pleasing thing,” he said.
Kohli scored two successive fifties in difficult conditions — a knock of 67 off 63 balls against Afghanistan, and 72 off 82 balls against West Indies on Thursday. “I am happy with my own contribution as well. Last game, we didn’t calculate well, we lost two quick wickets, but today we improved,” Kohli said.
'Happy with my contribution'
“I look to play in my own way, happy to take the ones and twos which I think is a big factor in ODI cricket. Two difficult pitches, I’m happy with my contribution and look forward to doing more of the same in the future.”
Kohli also praised Hardik Pandya (46 off 38) and Dhoni for taking India to a competitive total. “Hardik played really well and M. S. finished strongly. When those two play in that way, we always get to a good total. To get to 270 was good, that put pressure on their batting and was very difficult to chase,” he said.
“I don’t need to tell anything to my batsmen, they have to adjust according to their strengths and weaknesses and play according to the pitch.”
'Fantastic job' by WI bowlers
West Indies skipper Jason Holder blamed his side’s inconsistent batting for his team's 125-run loss. “Thought the bowlers did a fantastic job on this surface. Just let ourselves down with the bat. In hindsight, Dhoni’s (stumping) miss a crucial moment we didn’t seize,” he said.
“Let ourselves down significantly in this tournament. Missed a few chances in the field which cost us. Batting was too inconsistent. Can’t fault the bowlers. Need to improve. Probably our weakest format, this. Kemar Roach was outstanding today. Youngsters have chipped in here and there. Bowlers had a reasonable campaign. Can’t fault their efforts. Fielding, definitely has to improve. So does the batting.”
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