"You need to test your bench strength as well and you need to give those guys game time. I think Umesh bowled well, even Shami bowled well." © BCCI

“You need to test your bench strength as well and you need to give those guys game time. I think Umesh bowled well, even Shami bowled well.” © BCCI

Having already won the five-match One-Day International series before reaching Bangalore for the fourth game, Virat Kohli ringed in three changes, all bowlers, in the playing XI that featured in India’s 21-run defeat at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday (September 28).

The successful pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were rested, with Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav given a go. While the pair of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah had bowled with great discipline, both at the start and at the death, Shami and Umesh couldn’t quite replicate that. The result was David Warner and Aaron Finch taking advantage of the boundary-balls and settling in to put on a record 231 runs for the opening wicket.

While Shami gave up 62 runs from his full quota of overs, Umesh gave up 71 runs in his quota, though he picked up four wickets in the bargain. Axar Patel, who had a great outing in the five ODIs in Sri Lanka in August, was also brought in for Kuldeep Yadav after recovering from a hand injury. The left-arm spinner though, looked rusty on his return and his figures of 0 for 66 reflected that.

Australia took advantage of the changes and piled up 334 for 5. The Indian batsmen then fought hard, but failed to cross the line. The defeat also meant India’s winning streak ended at nine ODIs.

Kohli, who had earlier spoken about playing a ruthless brand of cricket even after the series was won in Indore, defended the changes. “We’ve won the series and you have to try the guys out at some stage,” he said.

On Pandya’s elevation in the batting order
“For now, it’s to go after the spinner, push the spinner out of the attack and get the quicks to come into the game earlier. He’s done that well in the last game as well. In this game too, he batted pretty nicely. It might be a regular option, you never know. Guy has got a solid game, he’s got a good defence. He’s got the technique, he’s not just a slogger. I think if he gains more confidence and understands how to take the game till the end and finish it more often, you never know he might be a regular at that spot. We are willing to do different things and try and upset the rhythm of the opposition.”

“You need to test your bench strength as well and you need to give those guys game time. I think Umesh bowled well, even Shami bowled well, Umesh even picked up four wickets and it would have been a bit more than what he would have expected himself. But we only lost by 20-odd in the end. So we didn’t bat that badly. I think the wicket was really good to bat on and from that point of view, you have to give them a bit of advantage there. But in hindsight, if you lose, I’m not someone who sits and thinks maybe I shouldn’t have done this. You try, you go for something. If it doesn’t work make another plan and you go for it again putting all your belief in it. That’s exactly what I think and what the whole squad thinks.”

After India lost Rohit Sharma and Kohli in a short span of time, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav came together for a 78-run stand for the fourth wicket. The two kept the scoreboard moving with some smart shot selection. While Pandya took the attack to the spinners, Jadhav picked the pacers for occasional boundaries en route to his third ODI fifty.

The two were cruising before Pandya fell to Adam Zampa. Kohli felt a situation like this would help younger players understand the game better. “When all of us had gotten out, when Hardik and Kedar were batting, we thought this was the ideal situation for them to understand how the game can be taken till the end,” Kohli pointed out.

“They did a really good job with that partnership. There are a few positives we can take from this game. The wicket was such that one team had to bat better than the other. But I think Australia’s bowling was quite good. They got breakthroughs at the right time and that really stopped our momentum, especially when Kedar and Hardik were going well. If they had put on 40-50 more it would have been ideal for us. That’s exactly what we were seeking but things don’t go your way all the time. We have been playing really well. We have to understand the opposition played a much better game of cricket. We played really well today as well with the bat. With the ball, we could have been better. We’ll take the positives out of it and move ahead.”

"He’s got the technique, he’s not just a slogger. I think if he gains more confidence and understands how to take the game till the end and finish it more often, you never know he might be a regular at that spot." © BCCI

“He’s got the technique, he’s not just a slogger. I think if he gains more confidence and understands how to take the game till the end and finish it more often, you never know he might be a regular at that spot.” © BCCI

Pandya’s consistent performance in the last few games helped him earn the promotion to No. 4 in the third ODI. The marauding allrounder did justice to his elevation too, by playing a match-winning knock of 78 that helped India seal the series.

For this match too, India stuck with Pandya at No. 4, a spot which is still up for the grab with several options having been tried out. For now, Pandya’s promotion has been about taking advantage of his big-hitting against spin, but Kohli believed that if the 23-year-old could remain consistent, he could well make the place his own. “For now, it’s to go after the spinner, push the spinner out of the attack and get the quicks to come into the game earlier,” revealed Kohli.

“He’s done that well, in the last game as well. In this game as well, he batted pretty nicely. It might be a regular option, you never know. Guy has got a solid game, he’s got a good defence. He’s got the technique, he’s not just a slogger. I think if he gains more confidence and understands how to take the game till the end and finish it more often, you never know he might be a regular at that spot. It’s the flexibility and the way we bat at the moment, we are not predictable. We are willing to do different things and try and upset the rhythm of the opposition.”

Jadhav, who has acquired something of a golden arm with timely wickets from his part-time off-spin, bowled for the first time in this series in Bangalore. Jadhav, 32, now has 15 wickets at 23.26, having bowled in ODIs in only 16 innings. It was Jadhav who broke Finch-Warner stand, having Warner caught while trying to go big.

Kohli said the fact that Jadhav was not an allrounder and not expected to shoulder any great bowling burden helped him. “I think it’s the part-time mentality. It’s not an allrounder’s mentality,” he said.

On Gavaskar calling this team India’s greatest in ODIs
“It’s something we’ll feel good about because he’s seen many Indian teams over the past few years and to know that someone appreciates our skill and the way we are playing feels good, especially an Indian cricket legend. We are young. We are going to play for a while together. We are playing at home now, but if we can replicate this form in conditions that are alien to us, yes after that we can sit down and be happy with what we have done so far. At the moment, it’s about repeating those processes and trying to be consistent.”

“You saw Travis (Head) bowl. When a guy bowls in decent areas being a part-timer, he’s got nothing to lose. If that message can be conveyed in the first couple of overs, in the end, they can end up bowling three to four more. If a proper set batsman tries to go after them, more often than, you get your breakthroughs. So the regular bowlers are obviously always looking for consistency and thinking from a bowler’s point of view. That’s why the mindset, I won’t say reluctant, but gets more calculated compared to a part-time who just comes and bowls. If it turns good and he’s giving six runs an over, he’s done his job. I think that can be stretched and it’s good for the captain. I think Kedar thrives in that. We never put too much pressure on him because we understand. Today he gave us more than we expected. That’s a good thing. He’s a thinking cricketer.”

Meanwhile, Kohli was also full of praise for Warner, who smacked a 119-ball 124 to make his 100th ODI even more special. “We know he’s a quality player,” said Kohli. “He’s been a quality player for Australia for a while. I know in the one-day format, he was known as a T20 specialist and then he solidified his Test game and because I’ve known him for a while, I know that he really wanted to make a mark in ODI cricket. I think in the last 18 months or so his game has really come along well. Good thing for him and the Australian side. We all know he comes in as one of the best batsmen in the world right now.”

Despite the loss, Kohli’s men have been dominant across all the formats in the last couple of years. They have won far more than they have lost, prompting Sunil Gavaskar to say that the ODI outfit in particular could go down as India’s greatest ever.

“It’s a decent compliment I think,” said Kohli, under whom India have won 30 of their 39 ODIs. “Obviously coming from him, it’s not a bad thing, right? I think we have a long way to go. The journey is very far. It’s something we’ll feel good about because he’s seen many Indian teams over the past few years and to know that someone appreciates our skill and the way we are playing feels good, especially an Indian cricket legend. That’s a really good thing for us as a team, gives us great motivation to keep doing the things we are doing. But as I said, we are young. We are going to play for a while together. We are playing at home now, but if we can replicate this form in conditions that are alien to us, yes after that we can sit down and be happy with what we have done so far. At the moment, it’s about repeating those processes and trying to be consistent.”