Krunal Pandya: Will IPL play the catalyst for his T20 World Cup call-up?
The slambang nature of modern cricket is all about all-rounders. The more the merrier. Ask any successful captain in this format, from MS Dhoni to Rohit Sharma to Eoin Morgan and they’ll tell you how all-rounders have been key. Most successful teams, from IPL to international cricket, have always had bankable all-rounders who contribute massively to the output of the game.
With the T20 World Cup in November this year, India would be looking to increase its pool of players in this specific category. Some names are already doing the rounds, and India can expect to take 3-4 all-rounders on the flight Down Under. Will Krunal Pandya, the lesser-celebrated brother of Hardik Pandya, make the flight?
“The dream is to represent India in the World T20,” Krunal had said after some strong performances in August 2019 against West Indies. The lad is handy down the order, knows how to pack a punch, and his chemistry with Hardik is unquestionable. Additionally, both play the IPL for Mumbai Indians and have been part of several successful run-chases or explosive cameos.
This will work in Krunal’s favour. A true-blue IPL star, he’s already played 18 matches for the national team. His average of close to 25 with a strike rate of above 130 speaks for itself. He’s taken a 4/36 against Australia in Sydney, and that proves he is a wicket-taker.
His batting, too, comes as a massive bonus. His first cricket stint came at Kiran More’s academy in Vadodara and it helped his popularity. His ability to hit big sixes helped raise his stock. His partnership with Hardik at local tournaments reminded cricket fans of the Pathan brothers. He had not made a first-class debut in 2016, but Mumbai Indians picked him up. They bid aggressively during auctions and got him for two crores.
He paid back almost immediately. His stunning knock of 86 off just 37 deliveries is still fresh in the mind of IPL fans. The following season, he stood up and took more responsibility. He became Mumbai’s and the league’s one of the better utility players, with vital runs down the order and regular breakthroughs while bowling. His fielding, too, improved drastically. A Man of the Match award in the final was rightly deserved, and he proved that hard work could really do wonders.
2017’s IPL though was only a culmination of a good domestic season, where he emerged as Baroda’s leading run-getter and wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. His call-up to the national team was imminent and he performed adequately.
With the IPL approaching, Krunal will be looking to turn his fortunes again. Under Rohit Sharma, he flourishes. If selected, he will be vying for the spinning all-rounder’s slot against Ravi Jadeja, who is no pushover and is known all around the world as an expert in the role. But Krunal is not easy meat; he will make it difficult if he’s on song. Will he don the blue jersey of Men in Blue after the blue jersey of Mumbai Indians? His performances will play the painter if that happens.
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