MUMBAI: Former India cricket manager Lalchand Rajput feels Hardik Pandya is the "ideal all-rounder" that the national team has been aspiring since the departure of legendary Kapil Dev.
"Hardik Pandya is an exceptional cricketer. The talent he has got, I have seen him at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) and then he was with me at the Zonal Camp (ZCA). He has got tremendous talent. He is an ideal all-rounder after Kapil Dev," Rajput told PTI during an interaction here today.
The 23-year-old Pandya played a crucial knock in the first ODI against Australia in Chennai, which eventually helped India to win the ODI by 26 runs via Duckworth Lewis method.
"Because his batting is excellent, he can play in all formats. Earlier, people used to say he is good in shorter version, but in a Test match also he can turn the game. He took the first game away from the Australians (in Chennai).
"He can clear boundaries at will and that's the hallmark of a good batsman. His bowling is good and he is an outstanding fielder. He has the ingredients to be the next Kapil Dev. But still he has to perform upto a level to attain Kapil's stature. But certainly, he has it in him to be the all-rounder that the Indian team was looking at," Rajput elaborated.
Rajput recollected how he was impressed by Hardik's clean hitting during a Zonal Cricket Academy camp.
"And he (Hardik) just loved (to hit the ball) it. And get out. Now he has become matured. I always used to tell him proper shot selection will take you higher. The more he plays, he is getting more matured and becoming a reliable lower-order batsman," said the 55-year-old former Mumbai player.
On the present India Australia series, Rajput said India has the moment as they have clinched the first game.
"Australians are tough nuts to crack but we (India) have got the momentum. The Indian team is playing top-class cricket and it is difficult to beat them," said Rajput, who was the Cricket Manager, when India won the inaugural T20 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Rajput will be joining the Assam team as their head coach, for the upcoming domestic season, which begins on October 6.
He was the coach of the Afghanistan cricket team but did not continue with the job due to "security concerns".
On the new assignment, Rajput said, "We will have a camp of 15 days. I will get to know the players. I feel Assam has got a lot of potential. There is talent. I will try and ensure an improvement in the performance."