Dubai: T. Natarajan, the self-effacing yorkerman who showed great temperament during the white ball series against Australia - could be Virat Kohli’s go-to man in the T20 World Cup next year. “If he can bowl that well consistently it will be a great thing for us heading into to the (T20) World Cup next year,” Kohli said in a virtual press conference after India wrapped up the T20 series 2-1 on Tuesday. Natarajan was the standout bowler in the high-scoring T20 series, finishing with six wickets at an economy rate of just under seven runs per over.
It was a stroke of good luck for ‘Nattu,’ as he is affectionately referred to by his Sunrisers Hyderabad teammates during IPL, when an injury to spinner Varun Chakravarthy opened up a spot for the Tamil Nadu bowler in the limited-overs squad and he made an instant impact. dismissing Marnus Labuschagne and Ashton Agar on his One-Day International debut in the third game of the series in Canberra.
In the absence of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, Natarajan’s pinpoint yorkers and slower ball variations then helped India secure the subsequent T20 series.
“He’s been the guy who has stood up and really delivered under pressure, which is outstanding,” Kohli said. “Very hardworking guy, very humble guy, and you feel happy for guys who are committed and working hard for the team when they get the results and make the team win.
Meanwhile, Kohli was forthright in saying that allrounder Hardik Pandya, Player of the Series in the T20s, will not be considered for India’s Test series against Australia. Pandya was overlooked in India’s initial squad for the four-Test series starting at Adelaide Oval next week, and Kohli said he would not be picked as a specialist batsman alone.
“He’s been outstanding,” Kohli said after India’s 12-run defeat in the third and final T20 in Sydney on Tuesday.
“He couldn’t bowl and we knew he’s not going to bowl ... We need him to bowl. That’s when he becomes that one guy who brings a lot of balance for us.
“He himself wants to get back into the bowling space and be available as a pure allrounder in Tests, which becomes way more important.
“Over five days, you need a little extra from a player in that role. So he understands that and is working really hard to come back.” Kohli added. India will have a final warmup against Australia A at the Sydney Cricket Ground from Friday, a three-day pink ball match to prepare for the first day-night Test against Australia.
Kohli said he has not decided whether he would feature in the match or take a few days’ rest before Adelaide. “If I feel great I’ll definitely play,” he said.
“When I get into a good headspace, I feel like I can play and switch between formats ... I’m in the right headspace.”