Hyderabad, Feb 7: Limited overs specialist Hardik Pandya's selection in India's Test squad might have surprised many but head coach Anil Kumble has backed the "very rare" all-rounder to succeed in the longer format too.
Pandya, the 23-year-old right-hander from Baroda, impressed for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
His Twenty20 exploits won him the India cap in both One Day Internationals and T20Is. Now, he is part of the Indian squad for the one-off Test against Bangladesh.
He was previously, for the first time, included in the squad for England Test series (November 2016). However, he was released due to a shoulder injury.
On Tuesday (February 7), Kumble was asked whether Pandya had the ability to do well in the five-day format and the former Indian captain gave his approval, praising him for his all-round skills.
"We certainly want to keep Hardik in the mix because he is someone who has the ability to become a good all-rounder even in the longer format. That is one of the reasons we have pushed Hardik (into Test squad)," Kumble opined ahead of the one-off Test against Bangladesh, starting on February 9 in Hyderabad.
"It is very rare when someone can run in and bowl close to 140 (kmph) and bat in the middle order, lower middle order. That is the abilty that Hardik brings in," he added.
Kumble agreed that Pandya was not "really tested" in the longer version but felt he would excel, especially abroad, when the opportunity comes his way.
"Yes he is not really tested in the longer format but we certainly believe that if he is part of the mix and whenever the opportunity comes if we try him out, then in the future, when we travel outside India, he is someone you look at. So it is important to keep players with that ability to be in the mix. That is one of the reasons he is in the squad," Kumble said.
Pandya has so far played 7 ODIs and 19 T20Is for India. He made his international debut in January 2016 in Adelaide, against Australia in a T20I.