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Why Virat Kohli Should Not Have Defended MS Dhoni Slow Batting

In the ongoing ODI cricket series between India and England, India lost the 2nd one day international cricket match to hosts England, match playedat lords cricket ground in London despite dominating 90 percent of the match.,

Chasing 322 set by England, India got bowled out for 236 runs. At one stage the target looked within reach, especially when captain Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were batting together.

Virat kohli fell for 45 runs to Moeen Ali off break bowl which kept a bit low and came slowly off the pitch to trap great batsmen LBW. Dhoni  came to bat and played in such a manner that clearly did not please the Indian supporters in crowd and was booed off the ground,  after which Kohli had to defend him in presentation.

MS Dhoni booed at Lords
Captain Virat Kohli defending MS Dhoni for his slow battiing


When Kohli lost the wicket India needed 182 runs from 23 overs. That is 182 runs from 138 runs with 7 wickets remaining in kitty. In this day and age of fast slam bang cricket, aided with smaller boundaries, flat wickets, and filed restrictions,  most teams in the world would back themselves to chase down the target form that position.

But what happened a Lords was inexplicable. Not only India gave up the chase too early, the manner in which they went about it caused big damage to their reputation too as number 2 ranked side in ODI cricket.

One might say Suresh Raina could have tried to play bit faster, but he was making a comeback of sorts and is only in the team because another player Ambati Rayudu failed fitness test. So, one can understand his thinking.

Also when Dhoni is around we have seen him constantly talking to batsmen at other end on how to approach the target. So, it is very much a possibility that he had a word with Raina and asked him to play slowly to take the match into deep end before dashing towards the target.

Dhoni likes to control things himself and quite unnecessarily sometimes, it seems. He has backing of former Indian cricketers who quite often say that MS Dhoni has a big role in making Virat Kohli a great captain which is not quite true (in fact plain rubbish) as explained here.

Later at the post match interview Nasser Hussain asked Virat Kohli that "Your innings seemed to get fizzle out at the end." To this kohli responded with "this question has been raised before too. People jump into conclusions too early. We totally believe in abilities of MS Dhoni".

Virat Kohli has a great record as a captain of Indian cricket team, and one of the reasons for it is his unending hunger to go towards victory. He likes to play to win test matches and not to draw them. He has won 9 ODI bilateral series in a row and it is a proof of his unending desire to win series after series and matches after matches.

But then why he defended MS Dhoni for his slow batting?

We feel he should have not defended MS Dhoni's slow batting and should have sent the message loud and clear. There are many other reasons as well. Here are few of the reasons:

1. Dhoni never defended Yuvraj Singh: MS Dhoni, himself a great captain never defended Yuvraj Singh in T20 world cup match against Sri Lanka where Yuvraj Singh (who won India 2 cricket world cups) got stuck at one end and  and still is being blamed for having batted slowly. Albeit he was facing Lasith Malina of Sri Lanka, one of the best death over bowlers, Dhoni just went quiet in press and left Yuvraj to face the music. Yuvi was eventually dropped.

2. Lower order will make the difference: With new One Day cricket rules of keeping 5 fielders inside the 30 yards circle in last power play, teams with good strikers can target almost 120 runs easily in last 20 overs. India has been poor in that department for long time and may pay a heavy price in upcoming 50 over world cup in England in 2019.

3. 350 runs is par score: Earlier teams could score 300 runs and can feel confident of defending that target. These days, with advent of T20 cricket, players no longer feel pressure to chase 300 runs. Batting first you must score minimum of 350 runs to feel safe. With Yuvraj singh out of favor of Indian selectors, there seems to be no one capable of scoring fast in last few overs for India.

4. Important to carry momentum: Cricket, especially limited over version of it, is very much a momentum game. Teams can get crucial momentum with good hitting at the end and their bowlers can carry on with that in field. Conversely, while bowling first, teams can gain momentum by restricting Indian batting (due to Indian batting's own weakness) and can come out batting with aggression themselves and put pressure on Indian bowling having to defend a sub 300 target.

5. India doesn't play fancy shots: Indian batsmen don't play fancy shots like reverse sweeps and switch hit (and in fact if they get out playing those shots they get reprimanded). This means that Indian batting is always under pressure to score quick runs with proper shots, which is very tough these days. Given this background it makes even more sense for lower order Indian batters to go after bowling of opposition even more hard.

Virat Kohli should have kept all these scenarios while defending MS Dhoni's slow batting at Lords. Surely it would have passed a clear message and set the tone for rest of the series. He made a huge mistake there.

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