India captain Virat Kohli, on Tuesday, batted for MS Dhoni, who has drawn flak in recent times from certain quarters for a patchy run with the bat. Kohli observed that it was difficult for lower-order batsmen to play their shots compared to the top-order batters.

On a damp surface in the rain-hit final Twenty20 International against New Zealand, India defended a score of 67 in what was an eight-over contest to win the three-match series 2-1.

“First, I don’t understand why are people only pointing him out, I’m not able to understand this,” Kohli said. “If I fail three times, no one is going to point fingers at me because I’m not over 35. The guy is fit, he is passing all the fitness tests, he is contributing to the team in every way possible, tactically on the field, with the bat. If you look at the series against Sri Lanka and Australia, he did really well and in this series he hasn’t got much time to bat.”

The knives of Dhoni’s critics sharpened after the Rajkot T20I, which India lost by 40 runs. Despite scoring 49 from 37 balls, the Ranchi dasher’s struggles in the early part of his innings with the required run rate climbing up, came under the scanner. “You have to understand, the position in which he comes out to bat, even Hardik [Pandya] could not score in that game,” Kohli said.

“Then why are we only pointing out one man? Hardik also got out in the last T20 that we played in Rajkot. We are conveniently targeting only one man which is not fair. We also have to look at the fact that by the time he comes in, either the run rate is already eight-and-a-half or nine-and-a-half and the wicket is also not the same when the new ball is bowled.

Also, the batsmen who are set from the top, they find it easier to strike the ball straightaway compared to the guys who come lower down the order. And the kind of wicket that we have played on, the wear and tear has been much more in the latter half. You have to assess everything.”

‘People need to be a bit more patient’

In a recent no-holds-barred interview, Kohli lavished praise on Dhoni’s cricketing acumen, stating that the latter’s reading of match situations is spot on “eight out of ten times”. The 29-year-old remains unperturbed by the criticism: “As team management and players, we understand the situations in which he goes out to bat. We don’t get emotional and excited by the opinions of people who are looking at things from a different point of view.”

“If you are playing, you know how the wicket is and what the situation is like. So, I think he is doing absolutely fine. He understands his game, he understands his role, but it doesn’t come off every time.

He hit a six in Delhi and it was shown five times in the post-match show. Everyone got really happy. And suddenly he doesn’t score in one game and we are after his life. I think people need to be a bit more patient. He’s a guy who understands various cricketers. He’s a very smart guy. He understands where he stands with his body, with his game. So I don’t think anyone else has the right to decide that for him.”