Krunal Pandya's dream of representing India in the 2019 World Cup might be almost over but his constant appearances in the Twenty20 International and 'A' squads clearly suggest that the 27-year-old is expected to play a bigger role for the Men in Blue in limited-overs cricket once the mega-event in England and Wales concludes.
Krunal's consistent performances for his state side Baroda and IPL franchise Mumbai Indians forced everyone to sit up and take notice, and talks about his inclusion in the One-Day International set-up kept growing and growing. When Axar Patel was injured during the 2018 Asia Cup, India had a chance to introduce Krunal but instead went with the experienced campaigner Ravindra Jadeja. The man from Jamnagar grabbed the opportunity with both hands. India are scheduled to play just five ODIs ahead of the World Cup which is hardly a few months away and Krunal will need nothing short of a miracle to break into the squad for the marquee event.
While his ODI career is yet to take off, Krunal has already featured in six T20Is and is now part of the India squad that will play three 20-over games against New Zealand, starting Wednesday (February 4). He earned his maiden call-up in the shortest format of the game in England but didn't get a chance to make his debut. His first match at the international circuit came against Windies and his journey started with a 10-run over. Beginner’s nerves, maybe? But in his next three overs, the left-arm spinner only conceded five runs and also picked up a wicket of his Mumbai Indians-teammate Kieron Pollard. He then followed it up with an unbeaten cameo of 21 runs in 9 deliveries - that's exactly the kind of cricketer he is.
Krunal has the ingredients to chip in in all facets of the game, just like his brother Hardik, and that makes him a valuable component in T20 cricket. He can bowl those crucial overs as well as bat in the middle order. Such is his value that Mumbai Indians didn't think twice to use their 'Right to Match' card and paid a heavy tag of Rs 8.8 crore rupees in the 2018 IPL auction and then opted to retain him for the 2019 edition as well. In 39 encounters for his franchise, Krunal has scored 708 runs at a strike rate of 153. 91. It was his match-saving 38-ball 47 in the 2017 final against Rising Pune Supergiant that helped Mumbai lift their third title. With the ball in hand, Krunal has scalped 28 wickets at an economy of just over 7.
The left-handed batsman has only batted twice in his six T20Is and it was only in the final and deciding T20I against Australia where he made a solid impact in the bowling department. Having been smashed for 55 runs in the first game, Krunal came up with a decent performance in the second T20I where he returned figures of 1 for 26, but still had only two wickets to show in his first five T20Is. He finally managed to lit up his wicket column in the third T20I in Sydney where he took four wickets including the likes of D'Arcy Short and Glenn Maxwell.
Since then he has regularly been playing competitive cricket for India A and Baroda. He featured in a couple of List A games in New Zealand but failed to make any impact. However, when he traveled back to Delhi to play a Ranji Trophy game against Railways, Krunal crafted centuries (160 and 104) in both the innings and picked up six scalps to lead Baroda to a 164-run victory. He recently played two 50-over matches for India A against England Lions and made a handy 21 before taking 4 for 21 in the third encounter of the five-match series, helping his team gain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
Recently talking to the New Indian Express, Krunal acknowledged that playing for India A and Mumbai Indians has matured him as a cricketer.
“It helps you immensely. In the last one-and-a-half years, we have played in all countries — South Africa, England and New Zealand — apart from a lot of matches in India. These experiences make your job easier in terms of preparation when you graduate to the next level. It is not like you are in new territory all of a sudden," he said.
“Both have helped me mature as a cricketer. When you walk in, you know and understand the situation better. You know how the pitch is and how the oppositions are because we have played most of the national players with the A team. So that helps tremendously. Playing overseas, especially, helps you grow a lot.”
When we talk about allrounders in the domestic circuit, Krunal is one of the very few names that pop up immediately. He might not be consistent in both the departments but Krunal has the tendency to make an impact in some way or the other.
There's a chance that he might not feature in all or any T20I against New Zealand considering how well Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav bowled in India's 4-1 win the ODI series, and with Hardik back in the mix, it will be really tough for skipper Rohit Sharma to sneak him into the playing XI. Whether he gets a game or not, the future looks bright for Krunal, at least in limited-overs cricket.
Live Score, News & WC 2019 Updates