‘What he brings at No.6 is something you can’t create overnight': Kohli backs Hardik, says he's fit to bowl 'at least 2'
India captain Virat Kohli sounded confident about Hardik Pandya bowling ‘at least two overs’ at some point in the T20 World Cup 2021. The all-rounder's bowling fitness has been one of the biggest talking points for India in the lead-up to the World Cup. Kohli said currently Hardik looks fit enough to chip in with a couple of overs but he is likely to regain full fitness as the tournament progresses.
“Well, I honestly feel that Hardik Pandya presently with his physical condition is getting better in terms of being prepared to bowl at least two overs for us at a certain stage in this tournament and we strongly believe we can make the most of the opportunity we have at our hand till the time he starts bowling,” Kohli said during a virtual pre-match press conference ahead of India's T2 World Cup opener against Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday.
Hardik did not bowl a single over in the second leg of IPL and as per India vice-captain Rohit Sharma, he hasn't started bowling in the nets.
Kohli too said that they have kept ‘other options’ ready till Hardik starts to bowl. Kohli himself had bowled a couple of overs in India's second warm-up match against Australia.
"We have considered a couple of other options to chip in with overs so we are not bothered about that all," said Kohli.
The India captain backed Hardik's batting abilities and confirmed that he is set to play as a specialist No.6 irrespective of his bowling.
"What he brings at number six for us is something that you cannot create overnight. Hence, I was always in favour of backing him as a batter in Australia purely and we saw what he did in the T20I series and how he can take the game away from the opposition. We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter and it is important to have such players who can play impact innings. For us, that is way more valuable than forcing him to do something that he cannot at the moment, he is motivated and he is keen to start giving us a couple of overs to us," he added.
Asked whether the Indian bowling line-up will give them advantage against Pakistan, Kohli said, it would be an understatement to claim the previous Indian sides did not have a strong bowling unit.
"We try and go into any game with absolute preparation and proper understanding of what we need to do as a team. As long as we do that, we are confident of playing against any team at any point. So now for me to say that we have great bowlers and we did not have great bowlers before, we have won every time we have played against him in the T20 World Cup. If it was just a case of our bowling being weak, then we should not have won those games," he said.
"I do not think on those lines, for me what matters is that how individuals are playing at that time. Looking at the IPL finals, the quality of pitches is going to be far better in this T20 World Cup. This being an ICC tournament, we know the standard of the pitches has to be maintained which is consistent across all venues. The wicket in the IPL final was very good and I think the dew factor is becoming prominent, which is also going to help the pitches to stay better. Sharjah more or less will stay true to its true nature which is slow and low. I do not see any high-scoring games there, wickets I feel are better now," he added.
"It is crucial to have clarity of thought. I think in today's cricket, one ball can change the momentum in the shortest format. We have played in the IPL so it will help us in executing our plans more confidently, staying precise is important and one needs to back their plans," said Kohli.