India captain Virat Kohli feels Hardik Pandya has the potential to become Ben Stokes of Team India. The fast-bowling allrounder made his debut in the just-concluded Test at Galle and left everyone impressed with his quickfire knock in the first innings of the game. With the team already in a strong position, Pandya forged useful partnerships with lower-order batsmen and slammed 50 off just 49 balls to put India in a formidable position.
And although he did not make much of an impact on a flat deck, picking up just a solitary wicket, Kohli feels the Baroda star has managed to answer the questions that were asked to him before his Test debut. Kohli said that he has immense faith in Pandya’s ability in all the formats.
“He definitely has. First innings, he didn’t get 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. He used the bouncer well. He bowls around 135, 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. Otherwise we would have been 540-550 in the first innings. 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. I have a lot of faith in him as far as any format is concerned. 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,” Kohli said at the post match-conference.
“At home it has been different but when you play away from home, one guy gives you a lot of balance and I think Hardik can be that guy going ahead, specially playing so much cricket away from home. If he grows in confidence – you see someone like Ben Stokes, what he does for England. Brings in great balance as an allrounder. I see no reason why Hardik Pandya can’t become that for India,” he added.
India, meanwhile, won the first Test by a whooping margin of 304 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Riding on Kohli’s unbeaten century, India finished the second innings on 240 for 3, setting Sri Lanka an improbable target of 550. In reply, the hosts never looked in contention and managed to put up only 245 for 8 as Rangana Herath and Asela Gunaratne could not bat due to injuries.