India stand-in head coach VVS Laxman has heaped praise on Hardik Pandya, the captain for the T20 International (t20I) series against India. Laxman believes Hardik's work ethics, his calmness and his presence in the dressing room makes him a fabulous leader.
India will kick start their New Zealand tour with a three-match T20I series starting Friday (November 18) in Wellington.
"He's a fabulous leader," Laxman said ahead of the series opener.
"We've seen what he has done at Gujarat in the IPL. Someone taking on the leadership role in the first year itself and winning the Cup is no mean achievement. I have spent time with him from the Ireland series. He is not only tactically good but also very calm on the field. That's very important when you're playing at the highest level, because there will be situations where you will be under pressure. That's when as a leader you have to be calm.
"But also, his presence in the dressing room and his work ethics are exemplary. The way he leads on the field is fabulous. He is a players' captain; he is very approachable. All players confide in him, and that's something I really like about him as captain. He leads by example on and off the field."
Laxman who is filling in for Rahul Dravid who has been rested for the tour following the T20 World Cup along with senior players like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, feels India need to be aggressive especially in T20 cricket and at the same time focus on the conditions as well.
"In T20 cricket, it's important to be aggressive and we have the guys who have this ability to express themselves. So that's the message from the captain and myself: be aggressive, but also focus on conditions and situations, and use that experience," Laxman said.
"Yes, our regular top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli isn't here, but the players who have been selected have played a lot of international cricket, especially T20 cricket."
Laxman further adds that the having specialist cricket for white-ball cricket could be the way forward. "There's definitely a lot of cricket being played, there's no doubt about that," the former India batter said.
"India is very fortunate to have so many players to choose from. As a team management and selection committee member, you have to be mindful of when to give breaks to certain players. Breaks are important, to not only physically rejuvenate but also mentally.
"India is lucky to have that kind of bench, a pool of players to choose from. I think that will be the case going forward, especially in white-ball cricket, you require specialist players. Going forward, in T20s you will see a lot more T20 specialists, but managing their workload and choosing players from the pool we have is a blessing Indian cricket has."
Laxman is also excited to have Shubman Gill, who is yet to make his T20I debut. Gill played a pivotal part in INdia inning the Under-19 World Cup in 2018 for which he won the player of the tournament in New Zealand. It was in the same country he saw himself making his ODI debut and could be in line to make his debut in the shortest format as well.
Gill also hit 483 runs at a strike-rate of 132.32 in IPL 2022 to help Gujarat Titans (GT), led by Hardik, win their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title in their first year in the tournament.
Speaking of Gill, Laxman said, "It's very clear he's one of the most talented players India have."
"In the opportunities he has had at the highest level, he has shown what a class player he is. Slowly and gradually, he is becoming a very consistent performer, a match-winner. He has a great future ahead of him."
Following the T20I series, India will take on New Zealand in a three-match ODI series, starting November 25 in Auckland. The action will then move on to Hamilton for the second game two days later and the tour will conlude with the final game in Christchurch on November 30.