Virat Kohli, Indian cricket team captain, on Sunday said head coach Ravi Shastri was the brain behind promoting all-rounder Hardik Pandya up the order, which eventually paid rich dividends for the home side in the series-clinching five-wicket win over Australia in the third ODI here.
Coming to bat at the no. 4 position, Pandya played a delightful 78-run knock off 72 balls to steer India home while chasing a competitive 294 for a win.
Kohli also heaped special praise on Pandya and termed the “explosive” all-rounder as a “great asset” for the team.
“I’m really, really satisfied with the win. He (Pandya) is a star, has the ability with the ball, bat and the field. We need a guy like that, we’ve been missing an explosive all- rounder. He is a great asset for Indian cricket,” Kohli said after the match.
“The idea behind his promotion was Ravi (Shastri) bhai, to attack the spinner,” he added.
Pandya rose to the occasion yet again with a fluent knock as India registered a comfortable five-wicket win over Australia in the third ODI to grab the number one ranking.
Chasing 294 for a win, India overhauled the target with 13 balls to spare in front of a packed Holkar stadium to take a series-clinching 3-0 lead.
Openers Rohit Sharma (71) and Ajikya Rahane (70) set the platform for the win with their 131-run partnership while Pandya steered the side to victory with his crucial knock, which came off 72 balls.
‘Wrist spinners need to be backed’
Kohli also backed his new-found two wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and and Yuzvendra Chahal.
“Wrist spinners need to be backed, they won’t always get grip from the wicket, but they possess the ability to get wickets,” he said.
The India skipper said he backed his bowling unit to make a strong comeback, especially after Australia were off to a flying start.
“Steve (Smith) mentioned the first 35 overs was good from their end, we knew when we get 2-3 wickets with their lower middle order, we could pull things back. It was a 330-340 wicket,” Kohli said.
“Coming back from difficult situations has been a feature of this team. They were 35-40 runs short.”
Reserves may be tried
Kohli also hinted that with the series in their pocket, India might try out a few reserve players in the remaining two games of the five-match series.
“We might try few players now, but mindset remains the same. Journey stops only after the fifth game,” he said.
Pandya’s full use of opportunity
Man-of-the-match Pandya said he saw the promotion as a good opportunity to unleash his potential.
“It feels pretty good but I would like to finish the game next time. I don’t need to be surprised. It is important to back myself and saw it as an opportunity,” he said.
“I wanted to target the left-arm spinner (Ashton Agar). When I got a few sixes, I knew I could take some time.”
Losing skipper Steve Smith said the visitors were themselves to blame for losing the tempo after putting themselves in a strong position.
“We set it up beautifully in the first 37-38 overs. We put ourselves in a good position. But Indian bowlers executed well, we executed poorly,” he said.
“We needed 330 plus. Hardik (Pandya) was magnificent in end there. Finchy played magnificently, the wicket slowed up a little bit for both teams. The ball came on for the first 35 overs in both innings.”