NEW DELHI: India made a disappointing start to their current tour Down Under, losing the first two ODIs before making a remarkable comeback to win the third ODI at the Manuka Oval in Canberra. A consolation win in the final ODI against the Aussies proved to be a big morale booster for Virat Kohli‘s men.
Team India took the momentum into the three-match T20I series and beat Aaron Finch and Co. 2-1 to lift the trophy.
Indian left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed, who was part of India’s ODI and T20I squads for their tour of Australia in 2018-19, feels India captain Virat Kohli should get a lot of the credit for the turnaround.
“The credit goes to our captain Virat Kohli. He knows how to take the team out of trouble. ” Khaleel told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
“It was an amazing series. Team India looked confident in the series. We lost the ODI series but the win in the third ODI gave the Indian team a lot of confidence. We got the momentum from there. The win in the T20I series will be a huge boost ahead of the Test series. The win will give (the team) a lot of confidence ahead of the Tests,” he said.
India’s win in the second T20I in Sydney was their 10th win on the trot in the shortest format of the game. Though they couldn’t make it 11 on the trot and extend their own record, Khaleel feels the Ausies were outplayed.
“It was 10 on 10 for me. India outplayed Australia in all departments in the T20I series. The way they (India) made the comeback (after losing the ODI series), it was incredible. That’s Team India for you,” the Indian medium pacer said.
NATARAJAN – THE HERO ON DEBUT
Left arm medium pacer Thangarasu Natarajan’s cricketing journey is nothing short of a fairytale so far.
The 29 year old, tagged a ‘yorker specialist’ finished the T20 series as the highest wicket-taker overall, with 6 wickets in 3 matches.
“Natarajan bowled really well. He bowled with so much control. He is one of the players who played a big role in India’s win. He contributed so well. That’s why Pandya said he deserved the Man of the Series award. Natarajan and I have played together at Sunrisers. He is a talented bowler. I am really happy for him,” Khaleel, who has played 11 ODIs and 14 T20Is for India so far further said.
HARDIK PANDYA – THE GAME CHANGER
Hardik Pandya played a crucial role in India’s T20 series-clinching win. He was also the highest run-getter for India in the ODI series. He scored 210 runs in 3 matches (3 innings) at an average of 105.00.
In the second T20I, India needed 25 runs off the last two overs and Pandya delivered in style, smashing two sixes in the final over to secure a six-wicket victory with two balls to spare and seal the series for the Men in Blue.
In fact, after the series win, Kohli also said: “You need that finisher and he’s (Pandya) becoming that for us. He’s hungry, he’s got to keep getting better.”
For a long time, the tag of the team’s best finisher was with MS Dhoni. Now, in the post-Dhoni era, Pandya, who is currently playing as a pure batsman, because he is not fully fit to bowl, seems to have made that tag his own.
“For me, Hardik Pandya was the star of the series. He batted so well in the series. He is a game-changer. It is very difficult to start hitting sixes from the word go. It’s easy for Pandya. He can hit sixes at any point of time and at any given situation,” Khaleel told TimesofIndia.com.
“For years, Mahi bhai (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) has been doing these things. He is an idol for all of us. He was playing the role of a finisher for a long time. That job is not easy at all. But Pandya is playing that role now. He is the star performer for me in the series,” Khaleel added.