India's Virat Kohli has gone to bat for former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, saying it was unfortunate to see so many people going after the veteran.
Dhoni, 37, led India to World Cup victory at home in 2011 but his patchy form in recent times has led critics to question the wicketkeeper-batsman's place on the side.
Last week, selectors picked Dhoni in a 15-member World Cup squad ahead of the 21-year-old Rishabh Pant, triggering fresh debate about his cricketing skills.
But Kohli, who played under Dhoni before taking over the skipper's mantle, 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 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."
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 starting out.
Dhoni earned a reputation as one of the deadliest finishers in 50-over cricket before struggling to make a mark in the crucial 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 its a luxury to have him, but I am fortunate to have a mind like that behind the stumps."