Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Siraj is in the best headspace as a bowler: Kohli. "He has skill in his hand so he doesn't really bank on conditions"
"He has skill in his hand so he doesn't really bank on conditions"
India captain Virat Kohli praised Mohammed Siraj for the strides that the Hyderabad pacer has made since making his Test debut in last year's Boxing Day fixture during one of India's most memorable away sojourns. The just-concluded Wankhede fixture was his 10th in the format, where he has 33 wickets to show for. More importantly, Siraj has shown the capability to be a go-to bowler for Kohli through tricky phases and make things happen even when conditions aren't favourable.
“He's come a long way,” Kohli said. “He's certainly someone who has a lot of skill and talent. You can see the way he bowls and puts in effort every spell that he bowls. It feels like he can pick you a couple of wickets every spell which I think is a great boost for the team, especially in difficult or challenging situations when there's a partnership and wickets are not falling.”
“You can rely on a guy like that to come in and bowl those 3-4 rapid overs to make something happen from the pitch. He has skill in his hand so he doesn't really bank on conditions which I think is a great sign for any team to have a bowler like that who can give you those important breakthroughs which can prove to be the difference in winning a Test match and drawing it,” Kohli added.
Siraj went from debuting in Melbourne to being the “senior-most” two games later as India's injury list piled up. The series-decider in Brisbane was his third, and only second for Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur. The game also saw Natarajan making his debut. Siraj finished with the series 13 wickets – the best tally among Indian bowlers on that tour.
The fast bowler then brought his skills to the fore at Lord's later in the year, where his impressive four-fer on the final day added to India's away successes.
“If you look at the Lord's Test match, even when the ball stopped swinging, he was able to get some purchase on the wicket because of the skill he has in his hand, and give us those breakthroughs which are very crucial as well because of the number of overs we had.
“He's come a long way, he's probably in the best headspace he's been as a bowler. And now it is upon him to develop that further and stay fit and hungry to play Test cricket for a long time for India and be the bowler that the team can bank on,” Kohli added.
Kohli was also effusive in praise for the stand-in players who've put their hand up in the two games against New Zealand in the absence of some of the first-team regulars. Mayank Agarwal, one such performer, scored 150 and 62 in India's thumping victory in Mumbai while filling in for regular openers Rohit Sharma (rested) and KL Rahul (Injured).
“Great application from Mayank. I think to play at this level for a long time you need resilience and you need character and he's certainly shown that. We've all gone through these processes where at some stage we've had to kind of make that impact performance at a very crucial stage. More than just feeling easy about himself as a batsman and an individual, what this will do is build his character.
“And that will help him in being consistent for India moving forward in the coming years because he's definitely an asset and he's definitely a guy who has shown he has good character. Now it is all about him building on that and these kind of innings will really give him confidence and really come into his own which is always going to be a great thing for the team.
Axar Patel too has walked into the XI in home conditions, where there has been room for an additional spin-bowling allrounder, and ensured he made an impact that didn't go unnoticed.
“Axar is obviously an all-round cricketer. His skill sets are something that provide good balance to any team that he plays for. Precisely why he's performing so well in the T20 format for so long and in Tests as well when he's given the opportunity. The good thing to see is that he's adapting his game according to the needs of the format which I think is a great sign,” Kohli reckoned.
While Mayank and Axar made the most of their chances, Ajinkya Rahane couldn't quite turn his recent slump in run-making around in the two fixtures. Shreyas Iyer's performance in Kanpur from the middle-order adds further pressure on Kohli's deputy going forward ahead of the South Africa tour, but the skipper refused to look at it that way.
“I can't judge Ajinkya's form and nobody else can either because an individual knows what areas are in the game that he needs to work on. Like I said, it's important to back people who've put in impact performances in tough Tests in the past. We as a team don't entertain an environment of doubt the moment there's a bit of pressure,” he said.