Hardik Pandya, whose blistering knock helped Virat Kohli's side post a mammoth first innings total on board against Australia, will be an important "weapon" for India in World Cup 2019, according to Krishnamachari Srikkanth. The former India opener called Pandya's quickfire innings against Australia as the "game-changing moment". Promoted up the order ahead of experienced MS Dhoni, Hardik did full justice to the faith shown in him by the management, scoring 48 runs off 27 deliveries at The Oval on Sunday as India reached an imposing 352 for eight, a total that proved beyond the defending champions.
"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," the former opener said.
"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.
"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 their favour.
"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, who beat Australia by 36 runs, have won their first two group matches to cement their 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.
"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 runners-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.
(With AFP inputs)