NEW DELHI: In the last couple of years, Hardik Pandya has significantly grown in stature as India's foremost all-rounder and according to former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar, the swashbuckling cricketer from Baroda provides the team with invaluable balance and will play a crucial role in the upcoming ODI World Cup.
Hardik, who was rested for the Asia Cup Super Four clash against Bangladesh, will be returning for the final against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
"He has matured a lot over the years. He had some setbacks in terms of his fitness but he has now worked hard to reach where he is now. He has shouldered the responsibilities very well, and is captaining India in T20s. He gives a lot of balance to the team being an all-rounder," Bangar, who is here as the 'Star Sports' expert, told PTI.
Pandya will also have to shoulder the responsibility of third seamer behind Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, which Bangar said will give India attack a complete look.
"We have one of the best attacks going into the World Cup. We have two fine new ball bowlers in Bumrah and Siraj, and then there is the experienced Shami. Kuldeep (Yadav) has so many variations, as he offers a wicket-taking option."
"(Ravindra) Jadeja too is around. As we spoke earlier, Hardik does give India a wonderful option with the ball. Overall, I think India has a strong and complete bowling line-up going into the World Cup," said Bangar.
Bangar also hoped that Shubman Gill, who made a superb hundred against Bangladesh on Saturday, would continue in the same vein in the World Cup.
Gill has formed a fruitful association with captain Rohit Sharma at the pole position from January this year.
They have scored upwards of 1000 runs together, and the fastest Indian pair to do so in ODIs.
"Gill has grown a lot as a player, and he has shown what he can do as a batsman in overseas matches too. The World Cup is at home, and I hope he continues in the same fashion."
"His partnership with Rohit is important for the team because they offer that mix of youth and experience," said Bangar.
The former India all-rounder said winning the Asia Cup will boost India's confidence ahead of the World Cup.
"It is really important because it will be a confidence booster entering a tournament like the World Cup. After all, there is nothing like winning a big title and going into the World Cup," said Bangar.
The former India all-rounder said playing in the Asia Cup ahead of the World Cup will stand India in good stead because of the level of competition and conditions similar to back home.
"It is an important part of the preparation (for WC). It is in ODI format, and the pitches are pretty much similar (to India), and all the teams from the sub-continent are playing here.
"Asia Cup is a tough tournament and the level of competition is very high. We have seen some closely contested matches here, and it is an ideal preparation ahead of the WC,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)