DUBAI: India captain Virat Kohli acknowledged the need for a "sixth bowling option" but also kept it open-ended when asked about flamboyant all-rounder Hardik Pandya's bowling fitness, stating that the Baroda man "has to be fit to be able to bowl one or two overs".
Pandya has started bowling in the nets but the skipper didn't give any assurance that the all-rounder would be bowling against New Zealand but indicated that he himself might roll his arm over if India happen to bowl first.
"It's very important to have a sixth bowling option -- whether through me or Hardik (Pandya). He should have to be fit to be able to bowl one or two overs," Kohli said on the eve of the New Zealand game.
According to Kohli, it would be the game situation that would dictate if they require an additional bowler, which has been India's bane over the past year since Pandya isn't half as effective post his lower-back surgery.
"Game situation dictates when to use your sixth bowling option. In our last match, if they (Pakistan) batted first, I could also have bowled one or two overs. But in the second innings when we needed wickets, we just had to bowl our primary bowlers. It's not that a team with six-seven bowling options doesn't lose," the skipper said.
Kohli confirmed that Pandya was "fine" as far as his shoulder injury was concerned but also dropped hints that Shardul Thakur is still not in the scheme of playing eleven as of now but could figure in the future.
"Hardik is absolutely fine if you're talking about the blow on his shoulder," Kohli said adding that Shardul was also in their "plans."
On Shardul, Kohli said: "He's (Shardul) definitely a guy who's in our plans, constantly making a case of for himself. He is definitely someone who can bring a lot of value to the team. What role he plays or where he fits in, that's something that I cannot obviously talk about right now. But yes, Shardul is someone who's got great potential and he will add great value to the team," Kohli added.
When asked how he assessed Bhuvneshwar Kumar's performance, the skipper said that he won't single out any particular bowler.
"As a bowling group we failed to pick up wickets and we understand that can happen in the sport. These are the same guys who did the job for us for a long period of time. So we understand how things went and where it went wrong."
Accepting the failure is the first step towards course correction, feels the skipper.
"We totally accept and know that we got outplayed by the opposition thoroughly. You need to accept that as a professional cricket team without any ego, without any excuses whatsoever. We have given none. And we will not give any excuses moving forward either. We lost as a team and that's exactly what we believe in and that exactly was the case in the previous game."
Trent Boult possesses equal if not more threat than Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose left-arm inswinging deliveries were found to be virtually unpayable by Indian batters.
But Kohli, very rightly, as any skipper would do, down-played the Boult factor.
"Obviously, he's motivated to do what Shaheen did. We have to be motivated to counter that and try and put pressure on him and the other bowlers as well. So that's basically the game anyway. It all depends on how we take the field mentally and how we counter that. We played against all these bowlers for a long period of time. All that matters now is when we step out onto the field what kind of mental frame we are in," Kohli said.