India skipper Virat Kohli on Sunday termed all-rounder Hardik Pandya as a 'great asset' to Indian cricket after his starring role in the hosts' series-clinching five-wicket win over Australia in Indore. The Baroda cricketer's 72-ball 78 and his crucial fifth-wicket stand with Manish Pandey, who remained unbeaten on 36, helped the Men in Blue chase down their 294-run target with 13 balls to spare. Pandya made the most of his promotion to number four in the batting order by putting on 78 runs with Pandey, who hit the winning runs. Pandya, who survived a dropped chance by skipper Steve Smith off Agar on 41, once again made it count for India after his 83 in the opening game in Chennai. The 23-year-old's explosive innings was applauded by fans and fellow cricketers. One message in particular, that from legendary wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara, stood out. "@BCCI seemed to canter to the series win. @hardikpandya7 is a very special player. India looks a complete side for all conditions," the Sri Lankan tweeted. "Thank you for the kind words sir!," replied Pandya.
Thank you for the kind words sir! ??— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) September 24, 2017
After his man-of-the-match performance in Indore, Kohli was effusive in his praise of Pandya.
"Rohit and Rahane were very good and then Hardik Pandya, only he can do what he does when he bats like that. He (Pandya) is a star," a delighted Kohli said after the win.
"He possess ability with the bat, ball and in the field as well. We have been wanting a guy like that for the past five, six years.
"A really explosive all-rounder is what we were missing and he's giving us that balance. A great asset for Indian cricket and I wish him all the best for the future," he added.
With two games to go in the series, Pandya will be aiming to further cement his reputation as India's finest all-rounder at the moment.
The fourth ODI is scheduled for Bengaluru on Thursday.