Rahul Dravid has said Hardik Pandya can make consistent contributions to Virat Kohli's Team India as the all-rounder is shaping up to be an all-condition player. The India A and U-19 coach believes the youngster deserves credit for becoming a more mature cricketer.
Pandya, who rose to prominence with the big-hitting skills he displayed in Indian Premier League 2015, had an IPL to forget last year as he could manage just 44 runs from 11 matches at 6.28.
The 23-year-old missed an opportunity to make his ODI debut as he was ignored for India's tour to Zimbabwe in June.
How Dravid guided Pandya
Cut to September 2016, and Pandya had luck going his way when he replaced injured Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar in the India A team that toured Australia.
Under Dravid's guidance, the Baroda all-rounder starred in the second of the two-match unofficial Test series. He made a calm 79 from 116 balls, having been forced to curb his natural game, at a time when the visitors were reeling at 6-46 in Brisbane.
Since then, Pandya has shown he is capable of playing in two gears. The way he provided impetus to the Indian innings during the first of the ongoing five-match ODI series in Chennai and the willingness he showed to pace his innings according to the situation during the third ODI in Indore have impressed quite a few, including the batting great.
"A good example about Hardik from my perspective is, he's willing to play situations and not just the natural game we often speak about. Credit goes completely to him. He's the one who has actually turned his career around," Dravid was quoted by ESPN as saying.
He added: "If he bats at four, he bats in a particular way. If he bats at six, he bats in a particular way. Tomorrow, he may bat at 80 for 4, like he did in the first ODI with Dhoni. That shows maturity and that's what you want to see.
"This concept of 'play your natural game', which I hear all the time, frustrates me because there's no such thing in my belief as 'natural game.' It's only about how you play different situations.
"You have to learn to bat differently in different conditions, and if you can do that like Hardik is showing at the moment, those would be signs of a developing cricketer, someone who can make consistent contributions and not someone who is a one-off, who can produce brilliance once in awhile."
'He's a star'
Pandya has already won two Man of the Match awards in the ongoing series for his contributions in Chennai and Indore. Skipper Kohli has backed Pandya by making him his go-to man and the latter is repaying the faith his captain is showing in him.
"He's a star, has the ability with the ball, bat and the field. We need a guy like that, we've been missing an explosive allrounder, great asset for Indian cricket," Kohli spoke of Pandya after India crushed Australia in Indore to take a 3-0 unassailable lead in the series.