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Kohli rules Pandya out as specialist batsman for Australia tests

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - All-rounder Hardik Pandya will not be considered for India’s test series against Australia starting next week despite starring with the bat in the white-ball series, captain Virat Kohli said.

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Pandya was named man-of-the-series after the three Twenty20 matches and scored two half-centuries in the preceding one-day series against the hosts.

But the explosive 27-year-old only bowled a handful of overs in the second ODI as he continues building to peak fitness following back surgery last year.

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 all-rounder 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 top-scored with a 61-ball 85 on Tuesday and heads into the test series in fine fettle after leading India to a 2-1 series win in the T20s following their 2-1 defeat in the one-dayers.

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 it was 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.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Lincoln Feast.