Krishnamachari Srikkanth says Hardik Pandya is a key man in India's bid to win the World Cup after the all-rounder's “game-changing” innings against Australia.
Pandya 25, was moved up to fourth in the India batting order at the Oval on Sunday and smashed 48 runs off 27 balls as India reached an imposing 352-8, a total that proved beyond the defending champion.
“The key innings for me was Hardik Pandya,” said former India captain Srikkanth. “His knock made all the difference because it ensured India set 352 instead of 312.
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“The rate he scored at added so much impetus and carried India to a greater score. It was probably the game-changing moment of the day.
“They promoted Pandya to four and that gave him great confidence to take the game away from Australia. They lost control when he was in the middle.”
Srikkanth said an in-form Pandya was a huge boost for India in a tournament in which favourites England can call on several all-rounders capable of turning the game in its favour.
“Pandya is a weapon Australia don't have -- an all-rounder of the highest quality. England have a box of them, while we have Pandya in what is probably the most important position in the team,” he said.
“He did not take wickets but that did not matter, as Jasprit Bumrah took three. He is at the top of his game and loves it here. I expect him to end up with so many wickets at the end of the tournament.”
India, which beat Australia by 36 runs, has won its first two group matches to cement its billing as one of the leading contenders to win the World Cup.
“You can't deny it, this has been an absolutely fabulous start for India,” Srikkanth said.
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“The batsmen are scoring runs, the bowlers are taking wickets and we even got two run-outs against Australia in a result that suggests everything is right inside the camp.”
Next up for Virat Kohli's side is a clash with 2015 runner-up New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Thursday and Srikkanth warned the Indians not to underestimate the Black Caps' powerful seam attack.
“It's now full steam ahead to New Zealand and that will also be a very tough match. I think New Zealand's bowlers are a step up on Australia's and are likely to be a handful,” he said.