T20 World Cup 2021: ‘Hardik’s physical condition is getting better’, Kohli expects all-rounder to bowl at least 2 overs

Hardik Pandya isn't playing the role of all-rounder lately | Getty

India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday (October 23) expressed confidence that all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be able to bowl two overs for the side during the T20 World Cup 2021 at some stage.

Hardik couldn’t bowl a single over during the recently held IPL 2021 second phase for Mumbai Indians (MI) and the two warm-up fixtures against England and Australia. However, the team management decided to persist with him considering his ability to absorb pressure and finish games with the bat.

On the eve of India’s tournament opener against arch-rivals Pakistan, Kohli provided an update on Pandya’s physical condition and also acknowledged his skills with the bat.

“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. We have considered a couple of other options to chip in with overs so we are not bothered about that all,” said Kohli during a virtual pre-match press conference.

“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.

When enquired about the Indian bowling attack, Kohli said: “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.”

“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 explained.

Reflecting on his decision to leave T20I captaincy after this World Cup, the Indian skipper said: “I have already explained myself, I do not think I need to harp it on anymore. Our focus is to play well as a team in this tournament and do what we need to do. People are trying to dig something which does not exist, I am not someone who will give importance to that. I have explained myself honestly, if people think there is more to it, then certainly it is not the case.”

India’s record against Pakistan in the World Cups has once again become a talking point ahead of the marquee clash. Notably, the Men in Blue are yet to lose a game against the arch-rivals across the World Cup events.

While India enjoy a 7-0 lead over Pakistan in the ODI World Cup, they have defeated the neighbours five out of five times in the T20 World Cup so far.

“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.