NAGPUR: India captain Virat Kohli feels man-of-the-series Hardik Pandya has emerged as the "biggest asset" for the team after their convincing 4-1 win in the five-match series against Australia. Kohli had special praise for all-rounder Pandya, who scored 222 runs with the bat and also picked up six wickets to emerge as the player-of-the-tournament. "Hardik Pandya is the biggest asset (from the series). Selection dilemma is always a good headache for me as a captain because it's always better to have plenty to pick from and take the best 11 possible," the skipper said. Kohli also praised the pace bowling duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for their outstanding performances in the series. "Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar) and (Jasprit) Bumrah have been outstanding for us. When Umesh (Yadav) and (Mohammed) Shami got their opportunity they were pretty good as well. And those two wrist spinners (Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal) in the middle overs were too very good," he said. After leading the team to their sixth consecutive bilateral series victory, a satisfied Kohli said he was satisfied with the overall performance of the team. "I thought it was a really convincing series win. We've ticked all the boxes. We have been put under pressure, and we have come back four times to win four games. Lots of positives to come out of this series," Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony here. Asked about how difficult it is to keep the team motivated for an inconsequential game, Kohli said: "The management has played a role in that as well. I think it's become second nature to the players (to keep themselves motivated despite already winning the series)." Australia skipper Steve Smith said India were the deserving winners as they played better cricket than the visitors. He said Australia were 50 runs short of what could have been a winning score on this wicket. "Probably around a 300 wicket, I think. Finchy (Aaron Finch) and Davey (David Warner) played really well, and maybe one of our top four needed to go on and make a big score," he said.
"It was a disappointing performance, and there's a few things for us to look at. We just need to get the right balance and put consistent performances on the board. "We've played some good cricket at times, but we've been outplayed and India thoroughly deserved to win. You've still got to try and keep a positive frame of mind. We did a few things well in this series - we just need to do them more consistently. We've got to let this go pretty quickly, and we have the T20s in six days, and hopefully we can go home with a trophy," he added. Player-of-the-tournament Pandya said there is a long way for him to go and there is always scope for improvement for a cricketer in his career. "There's always scope of improvement in everything I do. I always believe I can improve day by day. Working hard on my fitness, to be fit for every game, because it's not easy to do both skills," he said. "The situation I batted this time was different from what I've been used to, so I've learned a lot, and a pleasure playing against Australia."
Man-of-the-match Rohit Sharma, who struck a quick-fire 125 off 109 balls during India's chase, said he always believes in keeping things simple. "I've always kept it very simple. Not to complicate things too much. Since I've started opening, I've always kept things simple," he said.
"There are certain areas I still need to work on. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I try to work around that. Initially it was tough. "I would love to have such a record against all the teams. I've always loved playing against this Australian team. They are very competitive, they never give away anything easily," Rohit added.