New Delhi: A game-changer in his hey-days, South African all-rounder Lance Klusener foresees India's Hardik Pandya closing in on someone like Ben Stokes if the team management can be "patient" with him for the next two years at least.
"Among current all-rounders in world cricket, Ben Stokes is right up there. There are a few who have come and gone in recent times as well but certainly, a guy like Pandya, give him a year or two at this level, there is no reason why he can't be one of the best all-rounders out there," Klusener told PTI in an interview here Wednesday.
Klusener, who is in the city as senior Delhi team's consultant coach for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, spoke at length about Pandya's all-round abilities which have come under the scanner after his largely disappointing show in England.
"I think we must be careful while making comparisons. Everybody wants to compare Hardik to the great Kapil Dev. Hardik is his own cricketer. Of course, he has got some learning to do. I guess Hardik's success will be based on how much he is able to learn," Klusener said.
The 1999 World Cup player of the tournament said Pandya has a fine support system to hone him.
"I think he is in great hands in that Indian set-up. I think people just need to be a bit patient more patient with him. I hope he is allowed to grow and develop," said Klusener.
For someone, who boasts of a highest score of 174 and bowling figures of 8/64 in Test cricket, Klusener feels that it's a seam bowling all-rounder, who makes the difference in a good team.
"For me, the glue for any team is the seam bowling all-rounder because it gives you a lot more options. I think India have got the right man. It's just that how he grows and develops himself. It's easy to criticise but international cricket is tough out there.
"I think Hardik should be given space and allowed to grow. He is going to be that glue for India for a long time," the 47-year-old said.
Klusener, who represented the Proteas in 49 Tests and 171 ODIs, is confident that in another two years, Pandya will be ready in the next two years if he can work on his weaknesses.
Pandya scored 164 runs in eight innings in England and critics felt that at times he trusted his defensive technique too much.
Klusener thinks that someone with natural ability to hit the ball should always try and play his natural game unless he batting with someone of Virat Kohli's calibre at the other end.
"His defensive technique needs a little bit of work but he is a natural striker of the ball. That needs to be encouraged. We have seen faster scoring by Stokes at the bottom of the line-up. That makes a big difference.
"Maybe Hardik needs to have the technique to defend when someone like Virat Kohli is batting at the other end. I am sure the Indian support staff have identified that weakness. The longer he plays, the longer he will be in that set-up and realise what a great talent he is," Klusener said.
"And you can only take advantage of that great talent, if you give yourself opportunity to get in (get set). That's one area he needs to pay a little bit of attention."
On his assignment as Delhi's white ball cricket consultant, Klusener was all praise for Indian youngsters, who are ever-ready to soak in information.
"For me, coaching in India is probably the ultimate. One of the things I like in India is about response of the players to learning. That's probably why its best cricketing nation out there.
"People are keen to learn and listen. When I was offered this job by the DDCA, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be here till 20 October and comeback during Mushtaq Ali Trophy," he informed.