"This time around we are starting off with a more solid combination, trusting our four strike bowlers to do the job and with Hardik Pandya stepping in," Kohli said at the toss.
"He is a wicket-taker, he can make those breakthroughs for us," the India captain said of the 23-year-old.
"That gives us good balance in the side. We surely want to start well in this series which we could not do last time."
Pandya broke into the scene in the 2014-15 season after having a good season with Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. He made his international debut on India's tour of Australia in January 2016 as he played in the T20I series.
After playing a stellar role in India's WT20 campaign, Pandya made his one-day international debut in October last year during the home series against New Zealand. He has played 17 first-class matches so far and has picked up one five-wicket haul. With a bat in hand, Pandya has scored five half-centuries in first-class cricket.
Speaking about Pandya's inclusion during the pre-match show, former captain Sunil Gavaskar said that it was a step taken with an eye on the upcoming tours.
"India has always been on the hunt for a seam bowling all-rounder. This could be a step keeping the South Africa tour in mind where the seam bowlers will get good assistance. So this is a good move as Pandya will be able to get a feel of Test cricket and specially on unresponsive tracks, which could help him learn a lot," Gavaskar said.
Pandya became the 289th Indian player to get a Test cap. He is the second player to make his debut in Test cricket this year after Kuldeep Yadav played his first Test against Australia in Dharamsala.
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First Published: July 26, 2017, 11:43 AM IST