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India's Virat Kohli has defended Mahendra Singh Dhoni, saying it was unfortunate to see so many people going after the veteran player.

Dhoni, who led India to World Cup triumph in 2011, has been criticized of late following his patchy form which has led critics to question the wicketkeeper-batsman's place in the playing XI.

Last week, Dhoni was picked over Rishabh Pant in a 15-member World Cup squad, triggering fresh debate about his cricketing skills.

But Kohli, who played under Dhoni before taking over captaincy duties, said defending him was a matter of loyalty.

"It's unfortunate to see so many people going after him. For me, loyalty matters the most," Kohli told India Today TV channel on Thursday.

"When I walked into the team he (Dhoni) had the option of trying someone else after few games, although I grabbed my chances, but for me to get that kind of backing, it was very crucial for me."

Kohli, the world number one ODI and Test player, also praised Dhoni for giving him the rare opportunity to bat at number three when he was just finding his feet.

Dhoni earned a reputation as one of the best finishers in the limited overs cricket before struggling to make a mark in the middle overs.

Kohli said Dhoni's input and experience were invaluable assets for the team.

"He is the one person who literally knows the game inside out. He understands the game from ball one to ball 300 (50 overs) on the field," said Kohli, 30.

"I won't say it’s a luxury to have him, but I am fortunate to have a mind like that behind the stumps."

India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

#India