Hardik Pandya is potentially the fast-bowling allrounder India have craved since Kapil Dev retired.
Pandya is a huge hit with the fans and was partly responsible for India dominating Australia in the recent ODI series. However, his biggest influence on the team could come in the Test arena.
A player like Pandya, who has the ability to bat in the top six and also produce deliveries clocked at 140kph, gives a Test side the flexibility that leads to success under all conditions. It affords India the opportunity to field a balanced attack of five bowlers no matter what the conditions.
Pandya not only has the skill to perform the role successfully but now that he is achieving consistency at international level, his confidence has soared.
He also has the added attribute of being prepared to experiment and consequently his bowling is likely to be effective under a variety of conditions. Allrounders with these qualities have the ability to change the course of a game quickly and in doing so, inspire their team-mates.
For India to be regarded as a truly great side, they need to perform well under tough conditions and against extremely competitive opponents like Australia and South Africa. If Pandya can adapt his bowling to succeed in those cauldrons - and there's no reason he can't - then India, with a strong batting line-up, are more likely to experience consistent overseas success.
"With his flamboyant style, Pandya reminds me a little of the electrifying England allrounder Ben Stokes - the outstanding and highly combative cricketer on the field rather than the citizen with a propensity for self-destruction off it"
The other challenge Pandya will face - especially in Australia - is the needling high-profile players receive from the crowds. This can have the effect of being either an inspiration or an imposition, and the way Pandya handles the intense barracking will contribute to either his success or failure.
If he needs inspiration in this regard he only need look to former star Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad, who could be as annoying as a shovel grating on cement, and was constantly heckled in Australia, but this only made him more determined. Eventually Miandad was begrudgingly accorded the highest Australian sporting compliment: "He's a bloody annoying opponent but we'd love to have him on our side."
With his flamboyant style, Pandya reminds me a little of the electrifying England allrounder Ben Stokes - the outstanding and highly combative cricketer on the field rather than the citizen with a propensity for self-destruction off it.
Both players are aggressive in their approach and this often results in a match-changing performance or a deflating and spectacular misfire. Neither player is concerned with containment and this can lead to the odd profligate spell of bowling. Equally, their predatory batting approach is prone to occasional outlandish dismissals that leave fans groaning. However, when they succeed, it can lead to quick runs or wickets in clumps, either of which can change the course of a match.
At this stage Stokes has done it at Test level, while Pandya only has the potential for such electrifying achievements at that level. This type of player reminds me of a colourful description that radio commentator Johnny Moyes once utilised to describe South Australia's captain and ultra-aggressive opener. "We all know Les Favell," Moyes said. "Some days he does and some days he doesn't. Well, today he did." Fans flock to the ground to watch electrifying players like Stokes and Pandya. They hope to witness something exceptional so then they can boast: "Well, today he did."
Pandya left his imprint on the ODI series against Australia when he plundered three successive sixes from the bowling of legspinner Adam Zampa in Chennai. India went on to win that game after being in a precarious position when Pandya joined MS Dhoni at the crease.
In other games in that series Pandya made useful contributions with both bat and ball but it was only that performance that could be classed as match-winning. If Pandya can perform at a similar level in the Test arena, then he'll not only be regarded as a top-class allrounder, he'll also improve India's chances of winning worldwide.