Hardik Pandya smashed 18-ball 31 during India's opening Asia Cup 2016 match vs Bangladesh © Getty Images
Hardik Pandya (above) smashed an 18-ball 31 and took the crucial wicket of Sabbir Rahman as well © Getty Images (File Photo)

India have a rich legacy of outstanding batsmen and excellent spinners, but have little to boast of by way of genuine pace bowlers and all-rounders. Kapil Dev is the only truly great pace-bowling all-rounder India has ever produced. One can almost count out the other decent all-rounders India has produced; there have been the likes Rusi Surti, Gulabrai Ramchand, Eknath Solkar, Dattu Phadkar, Syed Abid Ali, Karsan Ghavri, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Mohinder Amarnath, Manoj Prabhakar, and Irfan Pathan. It should come as no surprise, then, that India have desperately lacked an all-rounder in recent times. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs Bangladesh, Asia Cup T20 2016, Match 1 at Dhaka

India have opted for Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan in the last couple of years, and while neither man has been particularly poor, they have not inspired a lot of confidence either. The fact that India have such few pace-bowling all-rounders in the domestic circuit is another cause for concern. There is no dearth of spinning all-rounders. There are at least four left-arm spinning all-rounders who have either played for India or have been a part of the squad at varying levels over the last year or two: Ravindra Jadeja, Akshar Patel, Pawan Negi, and Under-19 cricketer Mahipal Lomror. Full Cricket Blog: India vs Bangladesh, Asia Cup T20 2016, Match 1 at Dhaka

The position of pace-bowling all-rounder has been up for grabs, but Hardik Pandya is increasingly making it look like that position may not stay open for much longer. Pandya has now played 7 T20Is for India, and has batted in three of those matches. He has improved with every innings, scoring 2, 27, and 31. He has faced a total of 36 deliveries across three innings, scoring 60 runs — that is essentially 10 runs per over. READ: Ashish Nehra, Rohit Sharma star as India thrash Bangladesh by 45 runs in Asia Cup T20 2016 opener

Pandya is not as muscular as someone like Andre Russell or even Corey Anderson, but he has quick wrists and upper-arm strength that helps him to flay the ball all over the park. He has shown he is equally good at hitting pace and spin, and unlike most traditional ‘sloggers’ does not only target midwicket — though he certainly favours the leg side — to get the boundaries. Pandya looks more and more like a future prospect for India as a lower-order hitter who can change the course of a match in a matter of overs. READ: 11 interesting statistics from Asia Cup T20 opening game between India and Bangladesh at Mirpur

Added to that is his bowling. Pandya is definitely not someone who will open bowling on a seaming wicket, but he can be relied on for a few quiet overs in the middle. His bowling has improved immensely from the wide-filled spell he bowled on debut. His current economy rate is over 8 an over, but he has shown that he is capable of sticking to a tight line and length, and can touch speeds of 140 kph on a regular basis. He is also an athletic fielder, which only adds to his value.

Pandya continues to impress with each outing. If he continues in a similar vein till ICC World T20 2016, India’s chances of lifting their second World T20 title will  improve greatly. Pandya comes across in interviews as someone enormous self-belief, which is always good to see in a cricketer. He is rated highly by the likes of VVS Laxman as well. If Pandya cements his T20I spot by the end of the World T20, there is little doubt that he will be India’s new No. 7 even in ODIs by the end of the year. Exciting times lie ahead for India and Pandya.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)