In a short span of time in international cricket, allrounder Hardik Pandya has established himself as a regular in Indian team. His record in limited-overs cricket has been excellent with both the bat and the ball. After 32 ODIs, Pandya has a strike rate of 118.73 and he has proven to be a great asset down the middle order. His wicket-taking ability is an added bonus for skipper Virat Kohli, as he has already registered 35 wickets in ODIs at an average of 35.48.
But, in spite of his all-round performance, there were doubts whether Pandya is fit to be a part of the squad in the longest format. The 24-year old proved doubters wrong as he scored a century and a fifty against Sri Lanka in away matches in August last year.
After his performance in Sri Lanka, Pandya received a call for the all-important South Africa series. In spite of him playing three Tests in his career and having no prior experience of playing in tough overseas conditions in South Africa, former Proteas allrounder Lance Klusener believes he could be crucial for India.
Speaking to Times of India in an interview, the 46-year old said, “An allrounder of the quality of Pandya gives India the edge both with the bat and ball. He is an exciting talent who provides balance to the Indian unit. Pandya -a medium-pacer who comes to bat lower down the order – provides skipper Virat Kohli with a lot of options with team combination.”
In an advice to the youngster, the former cricketer said that he should be ready to face a lot of bouncers from South African seamers, “I expect the South African bowlers to use the short ball against him. But if he survives those initial moments and gets his eye in, then Pandya could be lethal,” he said.
Klusener, who is currently acting as Zimbabwe’s batting coach, further pinpointed Indian skipper Virat Kohli and said he has to score runs to take India to victory. “If India aim to win this series then Kohli will have to score. He would be tested and it gives our bowlers a chance to know how good they are when they bowl to one of the best batters in the world currently,” he said.
Klusener added that South Africa’s bowling department will give them a slight edge in the series over their opponents. “Both India and South Africa have full strength sides to choose from. There is little to separate the two teams but I reckon South Africa will enjoy a slight edge in the pace bowling department as the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander are well-versed with the conditions. On the other hand, India have a well-rounded attack with terrific spin bowling options such as R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to choose from,” he said.
The first Test between India and South Africa will start from 5th January, 2018, Friday.