“Hardik is getting better in terms of being prepared to bowl at least two overs at a certain stage in this tournament,” Kohli said. “We have other options to chip in for an over or two. We’re not bothered about that. What he brings at that No. 6 spot is something you cannot create overnight.”
Speculation has been swirling for months over whether the Indian team management had enough faith in Hardik’s batting abilities to carry him through while he is unable to bowl. His recent non-India form has been distinctly under-par: an average of 14.11 for Mumbai Indians from 11 innings, at a strike rate of 113.39.
However, Pandya did impress in Australia last year in the white ball leg of the series as a specialist batsman with a 22-ball 42 in the second T20I in Sydney, a 50-ball 66 in the 3rd ODI in Canberra and a 76-ball 90 in the first ODI in Sydney.
“I was always in favour of backing him as a batter purely (in Australia), and we saw what he did in the T20I series and how he can take the game away from the opposition when in full flow,” Kohli said. “It’s very important to have that guy, especially in T20s, who can play an impact innings at that stage. We understand the value he brings to the team as a No. 6 batter. That is more valuable than forcing him to do something he’s not ready for.”
Kohli also said cricket boards may be in danger of killing the golden goose by forcing players to stay in prolonged bubbles as one series follows another to make up for last year’s pandemic-induced pause.
“We’ve lost some time but in trying to cover that up, if you lose players then world cricket is not going to be better off. There has to be a balance. Players also have to be spoken to. In a bio-bubble you can’t say which player is in what situation just because 5-6 players are laughing around. It’s important to give players a period to mentally refresh themselves.”
‘Pitches will be better in World T20 event than in the IPL’
Kohli is of the view that the ICC will ensure better pitches across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. All the pitches which seemed sluggish during the IPL may play differently during the World Cup, he said.
“Quality is going to be far better. We know the standard of pitches has to be maintained (by ICC) to a certain degree. To protect the pitches for the WC, there had to be some kind of compromise when we played the IPL.”