Team India head coach Ravi Shastri heaped praise on breakout star T Natarajan for grasping a golden opportunity, and believes that the left-armer has a long journey ahead of him in the years to come. Shastri further heaped praise on Hardik Pandya, whose game awareness he feels is second to none.
After carving a niche for himself as ‘yorker Natarajan’ in the IPL, Thangarasu Natarajan was picked as a net bowler for team India for the tour Down Under, but in two weeks’ time, the 29-year-old saw himself transform from a reserve to an x-factor. Injuries forced India to add Natarajan to the main squad, and the left-armer did not look back once he got a look in. After claiming two wickets on his ODI debut, Natarajan finished the T20Is as the best bowler across both the sides, scalping 6 wickets in 3 games at a remarkable ER of 6.91.
The Tamil Nadu man’s astonishing rise has seen him become one of the sporting stories in recent history, and now coach Ravi Shastri has joined the long list of people who have showered praise on the left-armer. Speaking to TOI, Shastri stated that he believes that Natarajan has ‘a long journey ahead’, and also thanked the support staff for keeping faith and instilling confidence in the 29-year-old.
"That's because he was picked only as a net bowler. He got the opportunity and turned into a golden one. The credit goes to the team management and support staff for believing in him, working with him and instilling that confidence. He's got a long journey ahead of him," Shastri told TOI.
Natarajan aside, the limited-over matches also turned out to be a ‘coming of age’ series for Hardik Pandya, who bagged the Man of the Series award in the T20Is. After notching up two 90s in the ODIs, Pandya sealed the T20I series for the visitors with an unbeaten 42 at the SCG, which delivered the knockout punch. Shastri expressed delight over players like Pandya taking up responsibility, and described the all-rounder’s game awareness as ‘second to none’.
"What's essentially working beautifully for this team is players standing up to these responsibilities. In that, Hardik has been a natural. His game awareness is second to none. He's one of the cleanest strikers of the ball I've seen in the game," Shastri said.
India did manage to win the T20Is 2-1, but what was impressive was that they did so without their ace pacer, Jasprit Bumrah. The 27-year-old missed all three T20Is, and the pink-ball warm-up game at the SCG will be his only practice prior to the four-Test series. Shastri revealed that the management took a conscious decision to rest Bumrah to manage his workload ahead of the Tests.
"We rested him because we know he's got a big load coming in. We've rested players simply because it's been continuous cricket and that's how it's going to be. The same reason the Aussies probably rested Cummins,” Shastri said of Bumrah.