Virat Kohli has always defended Mahi whenever his form has come under fire Image: Twitter
On a day when he crossed the 10,000-run milestone in ODIs, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was reportedly booed by Indian supporters at Lord's for his slow batting during the team's 86-run defeat against England in the second game of the three-match series. The incident prompted a sharp reaction from Indian captain Virat Kohli, who termed the reaction 'unfortunate'.
Dhoni was widely criticised for not showing initiative in his innings as India could only manage 236 in 50 overs chasing down England's total of 322. Dhoni managed 37 off 59 balls.
Before the start of the 46th over, the match was as good as over with 110 required off 30 balls. The crowd got restless when Dhoni failed to score off the first four balls of David Willey's over. There was booing after every dot ball, a rare occurrence considering the huge fan base Dhoni enjoys around the cricketing globe.
In fact, at the end of the over, substitute fielders Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel came in with an energy drink and replacement bat, which on-air commentators termed as a message to push things.
Off the very first ball in the next over, Dhoni was caught at the deep mid-wicket boundary, trying a wild heave.
When former England skipper Nasser Hussain asked Kohli about Dhoni's approach to the chase, the Indian skipper wasn't amused.
"This thing comes up again and again when he's not able to play the way he does. It's unfortunate that people jump to conclusions quickly. When he does well, people call him the best finisher ever, and when things do not go well, people pounce on him," said Kohli, who seemed a trifle irritated with knee-jerk reactions from fans and critics alike.
"The idea was to take the innings deep. He has the experience but sometimes it doesn't come off. We totally believe in him and the ability of all the players," he added.
When he (Dhoni) does well, people call him the best finisher ever, and when things do not go well, people pounce on him. Virat Kohli
Indian bowler Yuzvendra Chahal, who was at the non-striker's end when the incident happened, also defended Dhoni and said, "After Hardik was dismissed, there were only me, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav and Kuldeep. So, it wasn't like there were 2-3 specialist batsmen remaining. He hadn't batted much, so this was a chance to get a knock. If he had hit a shot earlier and got out, we couldn't have even batted all 50 overs."
With less than a year to go for the World Cup, Dhoni is very much in the scheme of things of the Indian team management for his vast experience and ability to read any match situations.
The wicketkeeper-batsman is regarded as one of the best finishers in the game, but his recent form has raised some questions about his prowess to win games for India.
Since the home ODI series against Australia last September, Dhoni has batted 13 times scoring 267 runs with four not outs. The average has been 29.66, which can be put in perspective considering at what time of the innings he comes into bat. But the most telling statistic is a strike-rate of 78.07 which is an indication that he is not able to force the pace down the order right at the onset.
(With inputs from PTI)