Krunal Pandya could not have dreamt of making a higher impact on his ODI debut for India than he did against England in the series opener on Tuesday. He came, saw and conquered! In a display of clear thinking, intent and clean striking, the elder of the Pandya brothers hammered the fastest fifty by a batsman on debut remaining unbeaten on a scintillating 58 off just 31 deliveries playing the match-changing knock for the country from number 7.
Krunal replaced the more famous younger brother Hardik who did not make much impact with the bat today and was dismissed for one of nine deliveries. India had lost a flurry of wickets and their momentum and needed a flourish at the end to put together a competitive total against a formidable England batting line-up.
The man making his debut in the format was their answer!
Krunal meant business and immediately showed his prowess against the short-pitched delivery pulling Sam Curran for two consecutive boundaries before imperiously flicking him off his toes to the backward square leg fence for the third four of the over. He had made an early statement – that he was there to take the attack to the English bowlers. He would not settle for a run-a-ball 30 on debut. He wanted more. He wanted to make an impact. Krunal took a calculated risk by his aggressive approach fully aware that a total of 250-260 would be insufficient against the World Cup holders. He did not play safe but instead went for the bowling in what was an unselfish display of batsmanship – and an approach and method also in sync with the captain’s new brand of playing positive and attacking cricket.
Krunal continued on his merry ways. A majestic cover drive off Stokes followed by a golf-swing back over the head of Tom Curran and into the boundary. It was the day the left-hander took a liking to the Currran brothers. He again got stuck into Tom and played a pick-up shot depositing the ball deep over square leg and into the stands. Krunal was on the charge. Together with KL Rahul he was taking India to a position of dominance.
He then carved Mark Wood for a boundary and a six and soon created a world record racing to his fifty off just 26 deliveries – it was the fastest fifty on debut in ODI cricket history. Krunal had surpassed John Morris of New Zealand, who set the record against England in 1990 by hitting a fifty off 35 deliveries.
Krunal remained unbeaten on 58 off just 31 deliveries – his knock included 7 fours and 2 sixes. He dominated the match-changing 112-run stand off just 61 deliveries with KL Rahul. India scored 111 runs off their last 9 overs and were provided the impetus at the death by the left-hander in his first ODI outing for the country.
Krunal was drafted into the ODI squad against England on the bank of some very impressive numbers in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy. Not only did he score big runs captaining Baroda but also scored them at a rate of 117.93 which stood out during the competition. This aspect of Krunal’s batting – his hitting prowess – had been witnessed in the IPL between 2016 and 2018. He had a strike rate of 191.12 in his debut season for Mumbai Indians – it was the highest strike rate in that edition for any batsman with a minimum of 100 runs.
His shot selection, clarity of thought, intent and aggression and the range of his clean strikes stood out today against England. Krunal has announced himself in style in the first given opportunity. Along with Hardik and Rishabh Pant, he forms a destructive lower-order for India in ODI cricket while also giving them a fine option with his accurate slow left arm orthodox.