India may have just played their last ODI before the Champions Trophy, which is still five months away, but skipper Virat Kohli is not unduly concerned and said the more T20s the team plays the better it will get at death bowling in the 50-over format.
India missed out on a clean sweep when they suffered a narrow five-run defeat to England in the third One-day International at the Eden Gardens last night.
This was the last ODI, India were scheduled to play before the Champions Trophy begins in England in the first week of June.
“It’s not such a bad thing. The more T20s we play, we will get better at death bowling in the ODIs. That will be our advantage,” Kohli said at the post-match press conference.
He added, “As far as batting is concerned, obviously the one area we look to focus on is to maintain our batting techniques and use T20s and ODIs as an extension of our Test batting. That means not necessarily getting reckless and slog every ball. It is very important to understand how to score in competitive conditions. The focus will be on not wanting to overdo things.”
Referring to the conditions in England, he said, “It’s very important to understand how to score in those conditions, you need to have solid base and balance at the crease to be able to score runs in competitive conditions.
“I think the focus will be on not wanting to overdo things and at the same time finding a balance between good conventional cricket and at the same time knowing how to score runs with that.”
In a series in which the batsmen made merry, India’s openers failed to make any lasting impression, but the captain backed Shikhar Dhawan and Co.
“At times, you have to give them chances to return to form. You don’t get ready players for international cricket that often. We should back our openers give them confidence.
It’s a matter of one or two innings, and you get your flow back in the international cricket.”
Recovering from a thigh injury, Rohit Sharma is one of the regular openers that India have, and Kohli said if all of them bat to full potential it would be ominous for the opposition.
“Earlier opening was never our problem, it’s our middle-order which is sorted now. It’s not that we have to go in search for openers, we already have got good openers. We will address the areas of concern, and will try to correct a few of them.”
Recalling the exploits of Rohit and Dhawan during their title-winning run in 2013, he said: “We have seen Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan as a revelation in the last edition of Champions Trophy.
“You never know, if we get stronger in that area. As a batting unit, we have just played to about 70-75 per cent of our potential. If we play to our full potential, God knows how many runs we would score. Yes, we need to strengthen those areas.”
Kohli showered praise on Player of the Series Kedar Jadhav, and the rise of Jadhav and good showing by Hardik Pandya were among the positives for the hosts.
“Very pleased to see Kedar bat the way he did, very pleased to see Hardik perform with bat and ball. Very pleased to see Yuvi and Mahi bat together and string that big partnership. So, I think, a lot of positives for us as a team.
“Even Bhuvneshwar with the ball in the second game… to win that game for us. To pull it back was outstanding, when it was difficult to grip the ball,” he said.
“And even today the partnership was outstanding between Kedar and Hardik, when we were 170-odd for five with all the experienced guys back.
“But I think these guys have shown character and stuck it out whenever we’ve been under pressure. And that to me is the stand out of this series as a captain. The way the new guys have performed and the way MS and Yuvi have batted.”
Fast-bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya made a strokeful 56 from 43 balls and Kohli said he brings balance to the side.
“All the teams around the world have a fast-bowling allrounder which gives them a lot of balance, it allows you to play that extra batsman I guess, allows you to still play two spinners, two seamers and if the guy is good enough he does the job for you.
“I think he bowled really well in the first and the third game, even today he picked up three wickets. He bowled in really good areas. He was one of the few bowlers who was hitting the deck hard and getting purchase off it.”
Talking about Pandya’s batting, Kohli said: “He’s got good instinctive play and now he’s getting more smarter and intelligent. We spoke to him about not being too aggressive or reckless initially and he understands the importance of rotating strike, and understanding when to score a boundary or hit the big shot. So, he brings great balance to the side, I must say.”
Kohli further said the conditions at the Eden Gardens were perfect for Champions Trophy preparation.
“If the wicket has grass and the surface is hard, you expect the English bowlers to bowl in better areas. They were pretty clever with their lines and lengths they bowled as well. It was pretty similar to how we bowl on Indian surfaces and how we reverse swing the ball.
“It’s nothing new we faced. We knew it’s going to be challenging facing their quick bowlers. That’s why I said it’s really nice to see two guys step up and take the game till the end. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the Champions Trophy.
“They are good enough to counter pace and swing and play positive cricket. The wicket was challenging throughout the day. You can understand where the game is heading nowadays.
Even challenging wickets you are getting 320 runs.”