Captain Speaks: Virat on T20I Win, Natarajan & Pandya in Tests

WATCH VIDEO: Virat Kohli speaks to the media after the completion of the three-match T20I series against Australia.

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Cricket
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Riding on wicket-keeper-batsman Matthew Wade's 80 and Glenn Maxwell's 54 and a combined haul of five wickets for 64 runs in 10 overs by spinners Mitchell Swepson, Adam Zampa and Maxwell, Australia defeated India by 12 runs in the third and final T20 International at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The win helped Australia avoid a series whitewash as the teams now head into the Test series that starts on 17 December.

"We have played some really good cricket over the last 11-12 T20s and the fact that this was the squad that had players who haven't had so much exposure at the international level, a few guys who are playing the first few games, from that point of view it was really a nice performance. Especially after losing first two ODIs, we came back nicely in the third and showed belief and we carried that momentum forward fighting back again the first two T20s. Tonight's game was close too," said Kohli while speaking to the media in the post-match press conference.

The India captain said that the takeaway from this series is that the players are fighting till the end and not giving up. "The takeaway is that the guys are not giving up and someone is putting his hand up every time, making an impact for the team which is very, very important."

T Natarajan, second left, is congratulated by teammate India’s K.L. Rahul after bowling Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne, right, for 7 runs during the ODI on 2 December, 2020.
T Natarajan, second left, is congratulated by teammate India’s K.L. Rahul after bowling Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne, right, for 7 runs during the ODI on 2 December, 2020.
(Photo: AP)

Special Mention for Natarajan

The Indian skipper earmarked T Natarajan for next year's T20 World Cup, saying he the pacer provides variety with his left-arm bowling, something India have been lacking.

"Special mention to Natarajan -- because in the absence of Shami and Bumrah he has been the guy who has stood up and really delivered under pressure. Outstanding for the fact that he is playing the first few games at the international level, looks very composed, he is very sure of what he wants to do," said Kohli.

"Natarajan is a very hard-working guy, a humble guy and you feel happy for the guys working hard for results and making the team win. I wish him all the best. Hope he continues to work hard on his game and keeps getting better because a left-arm bowler is always an asset for any team. And if he can bowl that well and consistently, it will be a great thing for us heading into World Cup next year," he added.

In Hardik Pandya, India have found the all-rounder they were looking for for decades.
In Hardik Pandya, India have found the all-rounder they were looking for for decades.
(Photo: PTI)

Pandya Won’t Stay For Tests

Kohli ruled out any chance of Hardik Pandya being asked to stay back in Australia for the Test series, after the stellar show he put in the limited-overs leg of the tour.

Pandya had made a couple of 90s in the three-game ODI series and also played a match-winning knock at the back-end in the second match of the T20 International series on Sunday. He has been unable to bowl as he is not yet game-ready as a bowler, by to his own admission. Pandya bowled just four over on the tour so far and that was during the second ODI.

"Hardik has been outstanding...we have found someone who can finish the games for us… but Test cricket is a different challenge. We need him to bowl to provide balance to the (Test) team. If you have seen (Test series) in South Africa and England, his bowling gave the team that balance. He will be available for Tests only as a pure all-rounder," said Kohli in the post-series media interaction.

Pandya, who was the man of the series in the T20Is, too was asked about it at the end of the third T20I on Tuesday. He said he will return home and not play the Tests.

"I think I should head back home and spend some quality time with my family. I haven't seen them for four months. Maybe in the future (for Test cricket), I don't know, maybe," Pandya said at the post-match presentation.

 India’s captain Virat Kohli, right, bats during the third T20 international between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney.
India’s captain Virat Kohli, right, bats during the third T20 international between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney.
(Photo: PTI)

‘I’ve Got Into a Good Head-Space’

Having played all six matches of the ongoing tour, Virat told the media he feels that he’s got back his rhythm, ahead of the first Test that starts on 17 December 17.

"I felt good (after the third T20I). I have got into a good head-space. I was a bit scratchy in the first ODI. I guess I was thinking too much about my technique. You are in a good headspace when you are playing well and are able to switch from one format to the other," said Kohli in the post-match media interaction.

The India skipper made 61-ball 85 in the third and final T20 International against Australia which India lost by 12 runs. Kohli's boys still managed to win the series 2-1.

Kohli aggregated 163 runs in the three-match ODI series with two half-centuries and 124 in the three-match T20I series with just one half-century.

The India skipper however, said that he is unsure if he will play the second warm-up that begins on December 11.

"I will see how I wake up tomorrow (Wednesday). I will be honest, I cannot play half and half. I can't stand in slips and go through the motions. So I need to wake up in the morning and see. If I feel great, I will play hopefully. If not, I will speak to the physio and trainer and take a few days off and be fresh for the first Test," said Kohli at the post-match presentation.

The Indian team beat Australia 2-1 in the T20I series. Australia won the third fixture of the series by 12 runs.
The Indian team beat Australia 2-1 in the T20I series. Australia won the third fixture of the series by 12 runs.
(Photo: PTI)

Looking Ahead to Tests

With the ODI series going Australia’s way and the T20Is India’s, Kohli admitted that the home team will pose a tougher challenge this time in the Test series than they did in 2018-19.

"We have to be competitive. They are a stronger side this time around. We will have to be more competitive and strong in our head and have the belief that we can build on the momentum and take it into the Test series," said the India skipper.

India had beaten Australia 2-1 in the Tests on their last visit during the 2018-19 season. Back then, the Aussies were missing David Warner and Steve Smith who were both serving suspensions for the ball-tampering scandal they were involved in early 2018 in South Africa.

Kohli added that while Australia is a tough place to bat, especially against the quality home pace bowlers, the country also provides an opportunity for batsmen to score runs.

"We need to take the same competitiveness into the Test series and I think as a batsman you need to be much more disciplined. But having played in Australia a few times before, you have to understand that this is a place where you can score runs and you have to put your team in front when you have the opportunity. So you have to buy your time against the quality bowling attack (at first) but then when it is time to capitalise, you make sure you take the momentum into a session and try and take that session away (from them)," the India skipper added.

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