Impressed with debutant Hardik Pandya’s performance in the first Test match against Sri Lanka at Galle, Indian skipper Virat Kohli has said that the all-rounder has the potential to become the ‘Ben Stokes of India’. Hardik Pandya in his debut Test match knocked a half-century and also impressed his captain by picking up a wicket in the first innings. Pandya, was included in the Indian side ahead of chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav for the Galle Test, received the 289th Test cap from the skipper on July 27.

“[Hardik] Pandya has the potential to become the Ben Stokes of India”, Sports website Sportskeeda quoted Indian captain Virat Kohli as saying.

Virat Kohli also heaped praise on the opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund, who weren’t part of the first choice squad for the tour.

Dhawan, who smashed a swashbuckling 190 off 168 balls to set the tone for India’s massive first innings score of 600, joined the team as a replacement for injured Murali Vijay.

Mukund, who scored 81 runs in the second essay was included after regular opener Lokesh Rahul was down with viral fever following the warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI.

During the match, Virat Kohli also surpassed former India skipper Sourav Ganguly’s tally of 16 Test tons. He completed his hundred with a single to midwicket, reaching the landmark in 133 balls. Virat has now Indian stalwarts V.V.S. Laxman and Dilip Vengsarkar’s tally of 17 and is only behind Mohammad Azharuddin (22), Virender Sehwag (23), Sunil Gavaskar (34), Rahul Dravid (36) and Sachin Tendulkar (51).

Earlier, chasing an improbable 550, Sri Lanka, reduced to nine men after skipper Rangana Herath and Asela Gunaratne were ruled out, failed to put up a fight before being bundled out for 245 in their second innings.

With the win, India have now taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series. They will next play the hosts in the second Test, starting August 3 in Colombo.