Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli (L) celebrates with Hardik Pandya (R) after the dismissal of JP Duminy (unseen) during the fifth ODI on February 13, 2018.MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

Indian captain Virat Kohli's decision to not include vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane in the playing XI for the first two Tests of the recently-concluded three-match series baffled quite a few fans, experts and even former cricketers. The Mumbai batsman, despite having proved his mettle overseas in the past, had to warm the benches.

Kohli had defended his selection call by saying the decision to drop Rahane and include Rohit Sharma was based on "current form". Notably, the former had struggled in a three-match Test series (17 runs from three matches) against Sri Lanka in November last year. 

The Indian team management eventually was forced to include Rahane in the playing XI as Rohit failed in the first two Tests, which India went on to lose and thereby concede the series.

'Current form' theory not applies to Hardik Pandya

On the contrary, Kohli has persisted with Pandya despite the all-rounder's woeful performances in the ongoing tour of South Africa. The Mumbai Indians star had impressed in the first Test in Cape Town with a valiant 93 that helped the visitors out of trouble in the first innings.

Ever since, Pandya, who is being likened to Kapil Dev, has only managed to score only 49 runs over two Tests and five ODIs, leading to questions over his place in the side.

'Kohli loves Pandya's attitude' 

Pandya though will get a long rope because skipper Kohli loves the all-rounder's attitude and captains preferring a particular player is part of "the nature of cricket", according to South African pace legend Shaun Pollock.

The former South African captain also said he said Pandya deserves to have the captain's backing as he is still learning and has got the potential to do well at the highest level.

"I clearly get the impression that Virat Kohli loves Hardik Pandya's attitude. It is very similar to the way Kohli plays his cricket. And because he loves that attitude there is a good chance that Pandya will get a long run in the side, to settle himself and cement his spot in the team," Pollock said, as quoted by the Press Trust of India.

"That is the nature of cricket. If the captain likes the way a player goes about his business then that player will get an extra run," he added.

"I liked Pandya's attitude and approach in the Cape Town Test, the way he played that knock, and he is learning. He will be ultra-positive in Indian conditions where he can take on the spinners. A lot of people have got potential, but to take that to the next level is always the key.

Hardik Pandya
Pandya's counter-attacking knock helped India cut down South Africa's first-innings lead in the first Test in January 2018.GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

"He will learn the art of what he needs to do in England and Australia.

"He still needs to find how he wants to play, mix his aggression with sound technique and if he can get himself in for a period of time then I am sure he can learn."

Top-order, wrist spinners in fine form

Despite the middle order, consisting Pandya, MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane, struggling in the end overs, the top three batsmen have consistently performed throughout the ODI series, which India have pocketed 4-1 with a match to go.

Also, wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal decimated the South African batting line-up by picking up 30 wickets between them in the first five matches.

The two teams will meet in Centurion for the sixth and final ODI on Friday, February 16, in Centurion after which they will shift focus to the three-match T20I series, starting Sunday, February 18.