India captain Virat Kohli confirmed that pace all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be ready to play in Sunday's match and even if Pandya can bowl two overs, the balance of the team gets better. India open their T20 World Cup campaign on Sunday with a match against Pakistan. Pandya hasn't bowled in a cricket match since the white-ball tour to Sri Lanka in July this year.
"I feel that Hardik, currently 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. We strongly think that we can make most of the opportunity we have at hand till the time he starts bowling," said Kohli in the pre-match press conference on Saturday.
“We have considered a couple of other options to chip in for an over or two. We are not bothered about that at all."
"What he brings at number six is something which one can't create overnight. Hence, I have been in favour of backing him as a batter in Australia, something which we saw in the T20 series and how he can take the game away from the opposition in full flow. We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,” he added.
“In world cricket, if you look around, (it's the) specialists who have done the job. It's very important to have that guy, especially in T20 cricket, who can play an impact innings at that stage. Even when the chips are down, he is someone who can play a long innings. For us, that is way more valuable that forcing him to do something for which he is not ready for at the moment.”
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In Pandya’s absence, Kohli was seen rolling his arms for a couple of overs in India’s warm-up match against Australia. The Indian captain stopped short of revealing the team combination for their opening match of the T20 World Cup.
“We have spoken about our combinations. I am not going to reveal them right now. But we have put in place a very balanced team and something that we feel covers all bases properly,” said Kohli.
"We are pretty confident in terms of execution as well because guys have been playing a lot of T20 cricket recently in the IPL. Everyone's playing well. So, that's a very positive thing for the team. Now, it's purely down to execution out there in the middle, of which everyone is confident and professional enough to do so. Role clarity is something we have addressed already. So, we feel very prepared.”
India currently have a 5-0 record against Pakistan in T20 World Cups. Kohli said that the arch-rivals have a strong team and have quite a few game-changers.
“According to me, Pakistan team is very strong and has been a strong team for long. You have to play your best cricket against them as they have a lot of talent. They possess players who can change the game anytime.”
“Against teams like them, you have to bring your best plan forward and make sure that the plan is executed well. The more consistently we play, the more pressure we are able to create on the opposition. So, definitely, we have to bring out A-game forward,” he concluded.