Dharamsala: Hardik Pandya stole the limelight on his ODI debut with the new ball in hand and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni backs the all-rounder to be one of his premier fast bowlers for next year's Champions Trophy in England.
India will just feature in eight ODIs before the Champions Trophy and Dhoni expressed his desire to test Pandya, who returned with figures of 3 for 31 in the first ODI against New Zealand, in varied conditions and situations.
"Our thinking was to use him as one of the three seamers and to give him a chance to exploit the new ball. The reason being we all felt he is quite deceptive. He can bowl quick. He has got movement and can swing the ball even on wickets where some other bowlers don't get that kind of swing. He is somebody who can get some purchase of the wicket," Dhoni said.
Pandya along with Umesh Yadav (2/31) produced a lethal opening burst to help India bundle out the Black Caps for 190.
"We wanted to give him a go with the new ball. We just have 8 games before Champions Trophy. So we would like to see how he (Pandya) reacts under different conditions and situations. How quickly he can adapt to the conditions. If he keeps on performing like what he did today I don't see why we won't pick him as the first of the three fast bowlers," the skipper added.
Dhoni was also full of praise for his other fast bowlers, Umesh and Jasprit Bumrah.
"Also Bumrah is very good in the middle overs where he can give me wickets and also at the death. So if I can save his overs I can use him at any point of time. I think Umesh bowled good lines. He has shown consistency in the last one and one-and-half years. He is swinging the ball. He is bowling in the right areas. So I feel it s a good opportunity for him to showcase his talent, show how much he has improved.
"Also looking at Champions Trophy in mind, England is where bowlers will get a bit of swing. So if he (Umesh) can hit the right areas with pace, he can create trouble for the batsmen," Dhoni said.
The captain also said that part-time bowlers such as Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav have a big role to play in building the combination of the team.
"The part times will have to feature. With five bowlers it is very important for part time spinners to bowl. Unless you give them more opportunity they don t take it very seriously. If on any day a regular has a bad day in office then they come into the picture. This is where contribution of Rohit and Kedar will be important because both of them can bowl off spin," the limited overs captain said.