November 2, 2018 / 7:03 AM / 15 days ago

Dhoni 'very integral' part of team, says captain Kohli

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India captain Virat Kohli has said Mahendra Singh Dhoni continues to play a key role in their limited-overs team despite the wicketkeeper-batsman being omitted for upcoming Twenty20 matches against West Indies and Australia.

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Sri Lanka v India - India Team Practice Session - Dambulla, Sri Lanka - August 18, 2017 - India's cricket captain Virat Kohli tries a shot next to his teammate MS Dhoni. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

India’s chief selector MSK Prasad said Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik had been drafted in for six T20s this month as the side look to identify a backup wicketkeeper to Dhoni.

While the decision to omit Dhoni raised questions about the long-serving wicketkeeper’s future in the shortest format of the game, Prasad said the 37-year-old was merely being rested.

Kohli, speaking to reporters on Thursday after his side secured a 3-1 victory over West Indies in their five-match one-day international series, gave short shrift to questions regarding Dhoni’s future.

“I think the selector has already addressed this if I’m not wrong,” he said.

“And he’s been spoken to firstly... So, I don’t see any reason why I should be sitting here and explaining that. I think the selector has come out and explained exactly what happened.

“I think people are putting too much variables into this situation, which is not the case I can assure you of that,” Kohli said.

By sitting out the T20s, Dhoni was giving an opportunity to younger players to get much-needed experience, Kohli said.

“He’s still a very integral part of this team and he just feels that in the T20 format, someone like Rishabh can get more chances,” he added.

“It has got nothing to do with anything that other people are thinking and I, as captain, can certainly assure you of that.”

Dhoni announced his sudden retirement from test cricket midway through an Australia series in 2014, with the Boxing Day match in Melbourne being the last of his 90 appearances in the longer format.

He has continued to compete in limited-overs internationals but local media have questioned whether he will be around for next year’s one-day World Cup in England and Wales when Dhoni will be 38.

He remains supremely fit and his glove work is still of the highest quality but opinion is divided over whether age has diminished his batting.

Dhoni was once considered India’s best finisher and no target was deemed out of reach with the boundary-hitting right-hander at the crease. He has scored 1,487 runs from 93 T20 internationals, at a strike-rate of over 127.

Pant, 21, has been making his mark with the bat and selectors could be planning ahead for not only next year’s World Cup but the World Twenty20 the following year in Australia.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford

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