All-rounder Hardik Pandya has the potential to become India’s Ben Stokes and improve the balance of the side, captain Virat Kohli said after the 23-year-old’s encouraging Test debut in the win against Sri Lanka.
England’s Stokes is widely regarded the best fast-bowling all-rounder in the world with his match-winning prowess with both bat and ball.
“When you play away from home, one guy (all-rounder) gives you a lot of balance, and I think Hardik can be that guy going ahead, specially playing so much cricket away from home,” Kohli told reporters after India’s 304-run win on Saturday.
“If he grows in confidence – you see someone like Ben Stokes, what he does for England. Brings in great balance as an all-rounder. I see no reason why Hardik Pandya can’t become that for India.”
In his first innings in Tests, Pandya scored 50 off 49 deliveries, his knock studded with five fours and three sixes.
The medium paceman took one wicket in Sri Lanka’s first innings, but looked more dangerous during a hostile spell in the second when he peppered the hosts’ batsmen with short deliveries.
“First innings, he didn’t get the opportunity to bowl much but I think in the second innings, he bowled really nicely on a wicket that wasn’t offering much and he kept it in the right areas,” Kohli said.
“He used the bouncer well. He bowls around 135 (kilometres per hour), when he bends his back he can go higher. So he is a great asset, and I have mentioned this before as well.
“And specially his batting... He got 50 quickly and that saves you time as well. That gives you another 15 overs to bowl at the opposition. And his fielding is also tremendous.”
Pandya is already a regular feature of India’s limited-overs side, and Kohli backed the all-rounder to shine in the red-ball format and in all conditions.
“I have a lot of faith in him as far as any format is concerned,” said the India skipper. “Test cricket, he has got the technique. He is a really good batsman.
“You might not look at it precisely, but we understand how much he can bring to the table, and I surely have a lot of faith in him that he will be able to perform on any surface on which he plays.”