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Krunal Pandya announces himself on the big stage

Krunal Pandya smashed a fifty on his ODI debut against England.
Krunal Pandya smashed a fifty on his ODI debut against England.
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 26 Mar 2021
Feature

As Krunal Pandya tucked the ball to square leg and jogged down to the other end, he looked up at the heavens with misty eyes, dedicating his maiden ODI fifty to his late father.

It was a huge moment for the 30-year-old, as he broke down in a post-innings interview. The determination to prove his mettle, coupled with the regret that his father was not around to see him overwhelmed Krunal Pandya. His brother, Hardik Pandya, though, was there for his brother and warmly hugged him.

Through sensational performances in the IPL as well as in the recent limited-overs series Down Under, Hardik had made a reputation for himself as India's go-to finisher in white-ball cricket.

For a man who seemingly couldn't put a foot wrong, Hardik Pandya (1 off 9) failed to get going against England. However, there was another Pandya lurking around, one who would catch the visitors napping. Enter Krunal Pandya.

With India stuttering after a mid-innings slump, Krunal Pandya had to hit the ground running. He made his intentions clear by swatting Sam Curran over mid-wicket for his first boundary in international cricket. Another two followed in the same over, as the then 29-year-old (Krunal Pandya turned 30 on the day after the game) set about transmitting the pressure back on the opposition.

Krunal Pandya's aggression was the need of the hour. His innings was one of controlled aggression. Scoring the fastest fifty on debut in ODIs, the left-hander provided the late flourish to help Team India set a competitive total on the board.

Krunal Pandya came out all guns blazing and epitomised the 'fearless' attitude captain Virat Kohli was looking for.

It was quite apt that the elder Pandya received his maiden ODI cap from his brother before the match commenced. Krunal Pandya would later have his moment with the ball as well.

Although he went for a few runs, Krunal Pandya ended a hugely satisfying first day in international cricket with a wicket to boot as well.

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Krunal Pandya and the Mumbai Indians connection

Krunal Pandya has been efficiently used as a floater by Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
Krunal Pandya has been efficiently used as a floater by Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Those who closely follow the IPL would know that Krunal Pandya is perfectly capable of the blitzkrieg he produced in Pune; the left-hander has done it for his franchise on numerous occasions.

Be it his fabulous 86 against Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2016 or the half-century in the IPL 2017 final against Rising Pune Supergiants, Krunal Pandya has demonstrated his ability to change gears as per the situation.

From being sent up the order in a mini-collapse to providing the finishing touches, Krunal Pandya has been effectively used as a floater. It's a role he could perform with aplomb for Team India as well.

Krunal Pandya came into his maiden international assignment after a prolific campaign in the 2021 Vijay Hazare Trophy.

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The Baroda captain led from the front, scoring 388 runs in only five innings, with two centuries, to stake his claim for a place in the Indian ODI team. He did not have to wait long for his first international 50-over assignment.

Krunal Pandya was named in the ODI team to face England in the three-match series in Pune. After a rather underwhelming T20I stint, Krunal Pandya knew he could not fritter away another opportunity.

Krunal Pandya could be the new finisher in the ODI team

Krunal Pandya
Krunal Pandya

Krunal Pandya arrived at the wicket at the fall of his brother Hardik Pandya. With KL Rahul struggling to get going at the other end, Team India would have been robbed of vital momentum had Krunal Pandya taken his time to get going.

Instead, the left-hander produced the kind of innings a seasoned ODI finisher would be proud of. In the process, he also helped Rahul break the shackles at the other end as runs flowed from both ends.

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The duo amassed 112 runs in under ten overs, which would prove key in the eventual scheme of things, as England fell short by 66 runs.

With Hardik Pandya having donned the finisher's role in the ODI team for a while, his elder brother has proved that he could more than don that responsibility.

In fact, with Krunal Pandya in the XI, Hardik - the batsman - might play with more freedom, something that would only augur well for the team.

Of course, these are early days in the ODI career of Krunal Pandya, and there would definitely be sterner tests ahead. But for now, Team India seem to have a reliable finisher and a handy sixth bowling option at their disposal.

Published 26 Mar 2021, 13:18 IST
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