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Cricket news - As long as he plays, Dhoni will be valuable to the team - Kohli

"There was nothing in farthest stretch of my imagination (that it could be taken as retirement tribute) while putting that picture" - Kohli

A tweet from Virat Kohli recently sent India into a tizzy, with the skipper reminiscing the T20 WC 2016 match against Australia in which he was involved in a match-winning partnership with MS Dhoni. "A game I can never forget. Special night. This man (Dhoni), made me run like in a fitness test," Kohli had tweeted. It was the timing of the tweet that alarmed the supporters of Dhoni. With the wicketkeeper-batsman not part of the T20I setup for the series against South Africa and Kohli coming up with a message that appeared like a tribute, speculations were rife, as was the case during the World Cup, that Dhoni's retirement was looming.

On September 12, when Kohli's tweet surfaced and led to numerous opinions and theories, Dhoni's wife Sakshi Singh Rawat dismissed it as rumours. But the cacophony that the tweet led to did not die down, with Kohli being asked about it even on the eve of the T20I series against South Africa in Dharamsala.

"I had nothing in my mind," replied Kohli on Saturday (September 14) when asked about the timing of his tweet. "I was sitting at home and I normally put out a photograph and it became a news item. I think it was a lesson for me, that the way I think, the whole world doesn't think that way. There was nothing in farthest stretch of my imagination (that it could be taken as retirement tribute) while putting that picture out on social media. Like what did I write?"

"I remember that game even now, every now and then. I never spoke about that game and so I thought I put up a post. Now people interpreted it in a different manner in which there wasn't even an iota of truth," he added.

Despite Kohli's reassurance that the tweet wasn't intended for any specific reasons, the question of Dhoni's impending retirement has lingered for a while. Even chief selector MSK Prasad, while announcing India's Test squad against South Africa, cleared the air by saying "No, absolutely not. I am really surprised to hear that," when asked if he received any update about Dhoni's retirement.

But the talks haven't ceased. With the selectors likely to invest some time on Rishabh Pant leading up to the T20 WC in Australia next year, Dhoni's name is the scheme of things came up for discussion during the press conference with Kohli. The India captain, while being pleased with the presence of several youngsters in the side, which provide an opportunity to experiment, added that Dhoni's experience will also be a factor as India approach the next big event.

"As far as roadmap is concerned, whenever there is a world tournament coming up, it is a like a milestone and you start preparing from backwards (back calculate matches). I think every team will go though same process before a T20 WC. These are opportunities where we can try various combination with new people around - check their ability, character, composure to perform at the international level. From that point of view, (it's) exciting for a captain to try different players and check out combinations. We have all come through that process and I feel happy when I see these new faces emerging and express themselves," said Kohli before mentioning that Dhoni is 'on the same page' when it comes to thinking about the well-being of Indian cricket.

"Experience is always going to matter whether you like it or not. I mean there are a numerous number of times people have given up on sportsmen and they have proved people wrong and he has done that many times in his career as well. So one great thing about him (Dhoni) is that he thinks for India cricket. And whatever we think, he is on the same page. The alignment is there. The kind of mindset he has had to groom youngsters and give them opportunities, and he is still the same person."

Kohli also preferred not to get into discussions of Dhoni's retirement, saying it's an individual choice, and added that the 38-year-old's value to the team will remain what has been over the years. "When you decide to stop playing is an absolutely individual thing, and no one else should have an opinion on it, that's what I think. As long as he is available and continues to play, he is going to be very very valuable."

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