Former Pakistan fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar believes India have finally found a replacement for Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Manish Pandey for the limited-overs format. Speaking on his YouTube channel, Akhtar said: “Hindustan ko akhir Dhoni ka replacement mil gya (India has finally got Dhoni’s replacement). They have found a good fit in Manish Pandey. Shreyas Iyer too looks a complete player and these add depth to India’s batting,” he said.

Dhoni has not played for India since the 2019 World Cup semi-final where Virat Kohli and Co. lost to New Zealand. He recently was not included in the BCCI central contract list for October 2019-September 2020 period.

“These players have played a lot in the IPL, they know how to handle pressure, they do not care about big names and hence, end up playing important innings,” Akhtar said about Iyer and Pandey.

Pandey couldn’t contribute much with the bat in the three ODIs against Australia as the top order consisting of Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan got most of the job done leaving very little for the middle order. Pandey has played in 25 ODIs and 33 T20Is to score over 1,000 runs and has one ODI hundred which was against Australia in Sydney.

However, Pandey did make his presence felt in the side for his spectacular fielding skills in the series. In the Rajkot ODI, the 30-year-old Pandey took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss David Warner.

India have now left for New Zealand where both the teams will be playing five T20Is, three ODIs and two Test matches. The five-match Twenty20 International series begin on January 24 at Eden Park, Auckland, while Seddon Park (Hamilton) will host the first of the three-match ODI series which gets underway on February 5.