Bengaluru: India are lucky to have someone with Mahendra Singh Dhoni's ability and experience in the side and the long-serving wicketkeeper-batsman is going to be crucial to their chances at the Cricket World Cup, captain Virat Kohli has said.
Dhoni has played 341 one-day internationals, scoring 10,500 runs at an average of just under 51, and his sharp glovework makes him first-choice wicketkeeper in the limited-overs format.
However, he will turn 38 during the World Cup and while he remains supremely fit a sub-par 2018 helped fuel suggestions that age has diminished his batting ability.
Dhoni, India's 2011 World Cup winning captain, seems to have turned things around with the bat this year. He has scored over 300 runs in nine ODIs, hitting four half-centuries, including three in a row during the tour of Australia.
"He is one person who knows the game inside out, who understands the game from ball one to 300 on the field," Kohli told India Today. "I won't say it is a luxury to have him, but I am fortunate to have a mind like that behind the stumps."
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.
While some were calling for Dhoni to be dropped during his dip in form, Kohli said he had earned the right to try to turn his form around.
"It was important to give him space, for which people did not have much patience at that time," he added. "Now after 12 months people are saying he is the most important factor in the World Cup, which is true. We knew deep down all along."
While Dhoni's improved batting form has eased concerns, the lack of clarity over the number four spot could still prove to be headache for Kohli during the May 30-July 14 World Cup.
India have included top-order batsman KL Rahul, wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik and all-rounder Vijay Shankar in the squad, who could all fill that role but as yet there has been no clear choice.
"We tried a lot of things," he said. "There were a few combinations that we tried. Eventually, when Vijay came in, it was three dimensional – he can bowl, he can field, he can bat. He is a proper batsman.
"That just gave us an option, saying why not have that kind of balance, which other teams have had all these years. From that point of view, we all agreed on it.
"We are pretty sorted with how we want to go about the World Cup. Obviously, who bats where is the decision for later."
India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on 5 June.