Virat Kohli lauded his bowling unit for pulling the fat out of the fire in the decisive Twenty20 International against New Zealand, saying they deserved a lot more credit than they otherwise got for their performances in the limited-overs matches at home this season.
After India were restricted to 67 for 5 in the third and final game in Thiruvananthapuram in a match reduced to eight overs a side, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal masterminded a six-run heist as New Zealand managed no more than 61 for 6 when they ran out of time.
Tuesday’s (November 7) six-run win – the same margin by which India won the deciding One-Day International late last month – gave India their first bilateral T20I series triumph against the Kiwis, and helped them maintain an unbeaten run in white-ball cricket at home dating back to October 2015.
“It feels wonderful,” the Indian captain said of the bowling group, after picking up another piece of silverware. “They deserve a lot more credit than what they usually get otherwise. The game has moved forward as a batsman-dominated game, the shorter format. When the bowlers step up in deciding games, that becomes the difference. If you see, both teams got close to the total, but it was the bowling side that did better that won the game. The game has boiled down to basically that.
“If the wicket is not offering much to the bowlers, then the team that bowls well on the day usually wins,” he went on. “Our bowlers have shown better nerves in tough situations than the opposition for a while now and that is something that makes me very proud. Even they are very pleased with their efforts and the execution of plans. We are very confident of where we stand as a team and as a bowling unit, and they definitely deserve a lot more credit in the last few series that we have had than they get usually.”
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Since returning from Sri Lanka in early September, India have ODI series wins to show against Australia and New Zealand, as well as this T20I victory. They also split a three-match T20I showdown against the Aussies 1-1 after the final game in Hyderabad was washed out.
“We have created some habits in the last few months and it is very important that we continue that,” Kohli reiterated. “Moreover, in matches such as these, the satisfaction that you were able to execute your plans is even greater, because with so much rain around, to keep the mindset for such a long time is not easy. You are switched off for so long, and to then suddenly switch on, and execute the plans in a decider gives a lot of satisfaction.
“I think we batted well,” he said of the batting group’s efforts on a tricky surface that gave the spinners plenty of joy, especially in the first half of the game. “There was a time when it seemed we would not be able to score too many with the surface being so tricky. But I felt 68 was a challenging score. And in the bowling department, we were excellent. We did not give them too many boundary balls in the second half, and that was the difference in the end. We thought we could bowl out our best bowlers at the start, and then we had enough confidence in Hardik (Pandya, who bowled the last over). His off-cutters are very effective, and the wicket today was very damp, the ball was skidding. It is important to give the confidence. I wanted to go to him after three balls, but he was sure he would deliver, and when you get that kind of confidence from the bowler, then there is not much left to say. He had the confidence in his ability and he finished well.”
Ravi Shastri, the head coach, said that India had set themselves a total in the region of 65 after seeing how the surface behaved, and the captain backed up the coach’s views. “We were quite happy with the total after eight overs,” Kohli added. “The kind of start we got, we felt it was really difficult to get the ball away, especially in the first innings when the ball hadn’t become too wet. It was gripping quite a bit and it was very difficult to get the shots away. The guys picked up their areas well and got us to a total. The difference of balls and runs was 20 at the halfway stage, so the opposition knew they have to play big shots, and we knew if we bowl in the right areas, we are in the game regularly and we took our chances as well.”
All praise for the ground staff, who eventually waged a successful battle with the elements, Kohli said, “It was good to get a game today. Not because of what happened in the last series (against Australia), but purely because of the way people stood rooted to the seats, and they did not move at all, even though it was raining so much. I would like to compliment the ground staff as well for making the game happen so quickly. It was raining for a while here and the drainage system was outstanding. These things matter a lot. It’s a collective effort of everyone to provide a game to the fans. And the players, of course, want to play. You don’t want to come here for four hours and then go back to your rooms.”
India rung in the changes, leaving out Mohammad Siraj and Axar Patel from the team that lost the second T20I, strengthening their batting by including Manish Pandey, and bringing back the left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav. Even though Kuldeep had an over up his sleeve with 19 needed off the last over, Kohli turned to Pandya’s medium pace instead.
“The good thing is that you don’t have to announce the team two hours before the game starts. As much as it is delayed, it is only at the toss that you have to give your final XI, so you can weigh all your options,” Kohli said of the plans going into the abridged face-off. “Like today, Manish playing turned out to be a good thing for us. He got 17 or 18 runs which were very crucial. We decided to go in with the extra batter, and then bring in the wrist spinner, Kuldeep picked up a wicket as well. It was a good collective effort. It is not easy to plan for these kind of games, because you come to the ground thinking you are going to get 20 overs to play and then suddenly you got to chop and change. It’s the character of the players that counts as well.”