Differing with his skipper Virat Kohli's views, India's ODI vice-captain Rohit Sharma on Saturday said Mahendra Singh Dhoni is "ideal" for the number four slot, as the team works on getting the batting order right for the World Cup. Rohit added it was his personal view and that the captain and the coach will have the final say on the batting slots. Dhoni on Saturday made a slow 51 from 96 balls in India's 34-run defeat to Australia in the first ODI, sparking another debate about his current form in a World Cup year.
"Personally, I always feel that Dhoni batting at number four will be ideal for the team but we have got Ambati Rayudu who has done really well now at number four. It totally depends on what the captain and coach think about it. Personally asking, I would be happy if Dhoni bats at four," Rohit, who scored 133 off 129 deliveries, said at the post-match conference.
Kohli had earlier expressed his preference for Rayudu to other players for the contentious position. Chasing 289 for a win, India were at one stage reduced to 4 for 3 before Rohit, who scored his 22nd ODI hundred, and Dhoni put on a 141-run partnership for the fourth wicket. But India, in the end, fell short.
"If you look at his (Dhoni's) overall batting, his strike rate is around 90. Today was a different scenario, when he came out to bat we had already lost three wickets and Australia were bowling pretty well. You just cannot go out and get 100-run partnership easily. So we took a little bit of time and even I did not score as quickly as I normally do," Rohit said.
"I took my time too because we wanted to get that partnership and losing another wicket at that point, the game would have been dead there and then. So, we had to play dot balls and build a partnership," he explained.
Rohit, who had described Dhoni as the "guiding light of the group" ahead of the match, also said that the former captain was ready to bat anywhere for the team.
"It is pretty simple with him and he does not complicate things. We spoke about building a partnership because it was crucial at that point," he said.
"It was great to see him come and bat at number five. We lost three wickets but he is keen to get those runs as well. Over the years, he has shown he is ready to bat anywhere for the team and score runs."
India's top-order was exposed after they lost Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan early on, as well as Ambati Rayudu for a two-ball duck. Rohit said it put pressure on other batsmen to build a partnership but denied suggestions that India's middle-order is light weight.
"We knew we can put some of the bowlers under pressure. Unfortunately, we kept losing wickets at the wrong time; the first three wickets and then when we were going strong with that partnership, unfortunately, MS got out and then we knew it was going to be hard.
"These things happen, these are the games that will teach you a lot as a batsman, to combat these kind of games when you lose wickets. But we have said enough about learning now. It is time to go and execute, take the pressure and absorb it."
Talking about other batsmen down the order, he said, "We believe in Jadeja to play those cameo innings when required but the asking rate was way too much when he came to bat and for any batsman to just start playing shots is not that easy.
"Surprisingly, the ball was reversing quite a bit so to adjust to that is not really easy for the new batter. I don't think it is a worry, but it is an eye-opener. Sometimes there will be times where no. 6, 7, 8 need to score those crucial runs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar did that well and had no support."
Rohit's hundred put him equal with former captain Sourav Ganguly, but he rued all his centuries in Australia went in vain.
"I just wanted to make sure we get those runs and the team gets into a good position. Unfortunately all the four hundreds I have scored in Australia, we have lost all the games. That is one thing I want to change. If I get a hundred I want to make sure that we win the game as well."
Asked about Dhoni's dismissal, which would have probably been overturned if DRS had been available, Rohit said, "Taking DRS can be tricky. We don't even have 15 seconds to talk to the batter, only 5-7 seconds by the time they walk over.
"Rayudu said he thought the ball was drifting down leg side and I thought the same. We don't think about these decisions once they have happened, and you cannot always be right.
"It is important to use DRS well. Maybe once we reach Adelaide, we will talk about it. It is a learning for us, but what's done is done."