Impressed by newcomer T Natarajan's ability to deliver under pressure, India captain Virat Kohli on Tuesday (8 December 2020) said the seamer could be a great asset for the team heading into next year's T20 World Cup.
The 29-year-old from Tamil Nadu has been sensational since making his international debut in the third ODI at Canberra, snapping eight wickets in four matches.
"Special mention for Natarajan, in the absence of (Mohammed) Shami and Jasprit (Bumrah), he stood out and really delivered under pressure," Kohli said at the post-match press conference.
"It is outstanding because he is playing his first few games at the international level. He looks very composed, he is a humble and hard-working guy, he is sure of what he is doing."
India is scheduled to host the T20 World Cup in October and November next year.
"I hope he continues to keep working hard on his game and gets better because a left-arm bowler is an asset for any team and if he can keep bowling in this way consistently, it will be a great thing for us heading into the World Cup next year," Kohli said.
India lost the third T20I by 12 runs but claimed the series 2-1, and Kohli said he was impressed with the way the team never gave up despite missing experienced players such as Rohit Sharma, Bumrah and Shami.
"We played good cricket over the last 11-12 T20s, the fact that this squad had players that don't have much exposure in international cricket, from that point of view it was a nice performance especially after losing the first two ODIs. We came back nicely and showed belief."
"We carried the momentum, fighting back again in the first T20s and even tonight, the game was close, so the standout is that guys are not giving up."
India is next playing the much-anticipated four-Test series against Australia from December 17 and Kohli said he is in a "good headspace" heading into the opening Day-Night game in Adelaide.
"Tonight I felt particularly good, I am in right headspace, it was scratchy to begin with in first ODI, I worked on few aspects of my game, purely trying to get into best headspace, not much about technique.
"I think when I get into a good headspace, I can switch to formats and adjust to conditions," he said.
"I feel very balanced and good going into the Test series, it is about continuing to be in that headspace and making sure that I contribute enough to the team's success and hopefully we will start on the right note in the Test series."
Talking about the workload management of the players, the India skipper said: "It is important to understand that you need guys fresh for the first Test, we need to take calls along with we playing six games in no time, this is something we need to address and be wary off.
"We don't want guys sore or have too many miles in them, we keep talking to the bowlers, they have been very professional and good in communicating."
Kohli said committing to the team's goal and taking focus away from individual performances has been the key to their success.
"...we have taken focus away from individuals and put more focus on partnership, making sure we bowl well in partnership, we bat well in partnership," he said.
"I think everyone has taken to that beautifully, youngsters didn't feel like they were playing their first few games, that's been the environment in the last five games."
Test cricket is different challenge and Hardik needs to bowl: Kohli
Hardik Pandya's stupendous batting in the white ball series has given him an extra option of a designated "finisher" but Kohli is clear that the allrounder needs to start bowling regularly in order to be considered for Test cricket.
Pandya has had scores of 90 and 92 in the first and third ODIs respectively and a match-winning knock of 42 not out in 22 balls in the second T20I, which helped India to seal the T20 series, got him the Man of the series award.
Asked if he would be tempted to keep Pandya back as a pure batting option for the upcoming four-Test series, Kohli answered in the negative.
"Hardik couldn't bowl and we knew he will not be able to bowl but we saw in the IPL the headspace that he has been. But Test cricket is a different challenge and we need him to bowl," Kohli was clear about his priorities.
"We have spoken about it. He is one guy who brings in a lot of balance for us in overseas conditions like South Africa, England. We were able to compete for longer periods of time and he adds a lot of balance in terms of his bowling."
Kohli believes Pandya is getting into the zone where he would like to perform in all formats of the game.
"He is definitely in a zone where he wants to perform for India in all three disciplines. That's always been his 'X-factor'. In white-ball cricket, we found some one who can finish games consistently," the skipper said.
But according to him, even Pandya realises that he needs to get back to peak bowling form.
"He himself wants to get back into the bowling space and make sure he is available in Tests because it becomes way more important for five days, that little bit extra.
"He understands that he has to come back the fittest he is able to," he added.
Late DRS call: Such mistakes not acceptable at highest level, admits captain Kohli
The 30 extra runs that Australian keeper-batsman Matthew Wade scored after a lucky reprieve due to a delayed DRS call by the Indian team turned out to be decisive and skipper Kohli termed the late reaction as "unacceptable".
It was in the 11th over that Wade was rapped on the pads by a Natarajan delivery that straightened after pitching. While the umpire ruled it not out, the Indian team, after some deliberations, decided to appeal and the umpire signalled for DRS.
However, Wade promptly objected stating that the stipulated 15 seconds for taking a review were over for the Indian team and the decision of allowing the DRS was overturned.
"That LBW was a strange one, we were still discussing that if ball was going down leg-side and decided to go for the review but umpire said nothing can be done," Kohli said at the post-match press conference.
"We felt as management, such mistakes (being late) cannot be done at the highest level. In an important game it can prove really costly."
The TV replays showed that it would have been LBW in India's favour and what would pinch them is the victory margin of 12 runs as Wade added 30 more to his score of 50 at the time of the incident.