Lance Klusener foresees Hardik Pandya to Reach the Level of Ben Stokes

The South African, who is in Delhi as a consultant coach for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, spoke at length about Pandya’s all-round abilities.

South African all rounder Lance Klusener foresees India’s Hardik Pandya closing in on someone like Ben Stokes if the team management can be patient with him for the next two years at least.

Klusener, one of the best all-rounders in his time, believes the controversial Englishman is “right up there” but added that Pandya has the potential to reach Stokes’s level. “…a guy like Pandya, give him a year or two at this level, there is no reason why he can’t be one of the best all-rounders out there,” the 47-year-old told ahead of India’s Asia Cup match against Pakistan.

Klusener, who is in Delhi as a consultant coach for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, spoke at length about Pandya’s all-round abilities, which have come under the scanner after his largely disappointing show in England. Pandya scored 164 runs in eight innings in England, which attracted criticism, especially since the 24-year-old has been compared with India great Kapil Dev.

“I think we must be careful while making comparisons,” Klusener said. “Hardik is his own cricketer. Of course, he has got some learning to do. I guess Hardik’s success will be based on how much he is able to learn.”

The 1999 World Cup player of the tournament said Pandya has a fine support system to assist him. “I think people just need to be a bit patient more patient with him. I hope he is allowed to grow and develop,” said Klusener.

For someone, who boasts of a highest score of 174 and bowling figures of 8/64 in Test cricket, Klusener feels that it’s a seam bowling all-rounder who makes the difference in a good team.

“For me, the glue for any team is the seam bowling all-rounder because it gives you a lot more options. I think India have got the right man. It’s just that how he grows and develops himself. It’s easy to criticise but international cricket is tough out there.

“I think Hardik should be given space and allowed to grow. He is going to be that glue for India for a long time,” the 47-year-old said.

Pandya suffered an injury scare while bowling for India against Pakistan on Wednesday, when he fell during his follow through and had to be stretchered off with a lower back injury, but Klusener is confident the Indian will be ready in the next two years if he can work on his fitness and his weaknesses.

Pandya was criticised for trying to be too defensive while batting during the England series and Klusener thinks that someone with natural ability to hit the ball should always try and play his natural game, unless he batting with someone of Virat Kohli’s calibre at the other end.

“His defensive technique needs a little bit of work but he is a natural striker of the ball,” the South African said. “That needs to be encouraged. We have seen faster scoring by Stokes at the bottom of the line-up. That makes a big difference.

“Maybe Hardik needs to have the technique to defend when someone like Virat Kohli is batting at the other end. I am sure the Indian support staff have identified that weakness. The longer he plays, the longer he will be in that set-up and realise what a great talent he is,” Klusener said.

“And you can only take advantage of that great talent, if you give yourself opportunity to get in. That’s one area he needs to pay a little bit of attention.”

On his assignment as Delhi’s white-ball cricket consultant, Klusener was all praise for Indian youngsters, who are ever-ready to soak in information.

“For me, coaching in India is probably the ultimate. One of the things I like in India is about response of the players to learning. That’s probably why its best cricketing nation out there.

“People are keen to learn and listen. When I was offered this job by the DDCA, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be here till October 20 and come back during Mushtaq Ali Trophy,” he said.

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