In a new role as the mentor for Indian cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s eye for detail will help in enhancing the confidence of the squad in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, captain Virat Kohli said in an interaction on Saturday.
Former India captain Dhoni, who has lifted the ODI as well T20I World Cups in his time at the helm, was last month brought in as mentor of the T20 World Cup squad by the BCCI.
During a pre-tournament media interaction organised by the ICC, Kohli expressed his delight at Dhoni’s appointment.
India begin their campaign against Pakistan on 24 October in Dubai.
“He has got massive experience. He is quite excited himself. He has always been a mentor for all of us. Younger guys who are playing their first major tournaments at early stages of career will benefit,” Kohli said, reported PTI.
Kohli, who is still chasing a global title as skipper of the Indian team, has announced that this World Cup will be his last assignment as captain of the national side in the shortest format. And he will turn to Dhoni’s advice to end an elusive wait.
“His eye for intricate details and practical advice will help improve the game by one or two per cent. Absolutely delighted to have him...(His) presence will not only boost morale but also increase confidence that we already have,” he added.
Dhoni won the IPL title for a fourth time with Chennai Super Kings on Friday.
Kohli also added that he doesn’t have an idea about the reported appointment of Rahul Dravid as the team’s next coach, to replace Ravi Shastri, whose tenure comes to a close with the upcoming marquee event.
“No idea exactly what’s happening on that front. No detailed discussion with anyone yet,” Kohli said when asked about the reportedly imminent appointment of the former Indian captain.
The 48-year-old Dravid, one of the greatest ever to have played for India, has been in charge of the national ‘A’ and U-19 set-up for the past six years and a lot of players such as Rishabh Pant, Avesh Khan, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari, and Shubman Gill have come through the system prepared by him.
He currently heads the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and was in Dubai during the just-concluded IPL to meet his former teammate and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Board secretary Jay Shah for an elaborate discussion, according to PTI.
On why Ashwin in, Chahal out
Speaking about Ashwin’s inclusion in the white-ball scheme of things after a few years, Kohli said it was reward for his courage.
“Ashwin has been rewarded for reviving his white-ball skills altogether,” Kohli said. “[He bowls] with a lot of courage in white-ball cricket. If you saw the IPL in the last couple of years, he’s bowled difficult overs, he’s bowled against the top players in the IPL, and not being shy to put the ball in the right areas. Spinners can get intimidated by the way power hitters hit the ball, but Ashwin believed in his skill set.”
“We felt like the way he was bowling and his variations now and his control over pace is something which is ... again a lot of experience, a guy who has played a lot of international cricket and he’s at his confident best. These guys can go in there and change the game with their spells,” Kohli added.
Kohli said that finger spinners are back in vogue.
“Wrist spinners were the ones in demand, mostly through that middle period, but now the finger spinners with that accuracy have come back into the game again, so we also have to evolve as a team with the evolving trend of the game,” Kohli added.
“With Ash and the likes of [left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja] as well, performing beautifully … These guys can be very consistent.”
One of the biggest surprises, both when the original squad and the updated squad was announced was the absence of one of his RCB colleagues. Kohli admitted that dropping a proven performer like Yuzvendra Chahal was a tough call but the Haryana leg-spinner’s lack of pace off the surface on the slow UAE tracks tilted the scales in favour of the quicker Rahul Chahar.
Chahar picked up 13 wickets from 11 games in this edition of IPL for Mumbai Indians but was benched during the end stage. Chahal, with 18 wickets in 15 games, was the second highest wicket-taker in the RCB team behind Harshal Patel’s 32 wickets.
“It was a challenging call but we decided to back Rahul Chahar for a reason that he has bowled amazingly well in the last couple of seasons and a guy who bowls with pace,” Kohli said at the ICC captain’s press conference ahead of the T20 World Cup.
The skipper reiterated that Chahar’s consistency over a period of time was taken into consideration during the selection meeting for picking the team.
“Rahul did really well in Sri Lanka and against England at home as well. He was someone who bowled those difficult overs,” he said.
“We believe getting into the tournament, wickets will be getting slower and slower. Guys who bowl with a lot more pace as you saw in the later stages of the tournament as well, were the ones who were able to trouble the batters and probably not give the ball too much air.”
These are strengths that make Chahar a wicket-taking candidate, he said.
“Rahul has those strengths naturally as a leg spinner as someone who attacks the stump, areas that can potentially get you wickets at any stage. That’s the factor that tilted the balance towards Rahul, but not taking anything away from Chahal, and this was a tough call.
“Picking a World Cup squad is always like you have only a number of spots and you cant put in everybody,” he added.
Kohli also stood behind senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s inclusion.
“His economy rate continues to be top notch, something that he has always been known for and experience comes to the fore under pressure as you would have seen the last IPL league game that we played against SunRisers Hyderabad. He had to close the game against ABD, probably one among the two or three destructive finishers in the T20 game,” Kohli recalled.
“That explains the volumes of experience that Bhuvi brings on the field and just understanding hitting the areas according to the dimensions of the field and balls to bowl at what time, he bowls lengths so well and consistently, which is not an easy thing to get away with in T20 cricket and specially with the new ball. It’s quite an under-rated thing.”
As experience can’t be bought, Kohli knows what his seasoned pacer brings to table is priceless.
“I think his experience and accuracy is priceless for the team and is back to full fitness which augurs well for the team, and I am sure with new ball he will get some kind of assistance in the tournament, whatever little is there on offer and knows how to make maximum use of that, as I said that’s going to be priceless for us,” he said.
With PTI and ICC inputs