Krunal Pandya Underlines His Importance to India’s T20 Plans
Krunal Pandya has made himself an integral part of the Indian T20I set-up.
Krunal Pandya rode a bit on his luck to get his maiden call-up into the Indian side. It was an injury to Washington Sundar during India's tour of England last year that had paved the way for Krunal's much awaited call-up into the senior team as the former's replacement.
He didn't get a game during that tour, for the selectors were yet to realise the importance of his skills to India's shorter-format plans.
However, he got to wear the blue Jersey for the first time during West Indies' tour of India in October-November and since then, he hasn't missed any of India's 13 T20Is.
The selectors now have realised how crucial his skills are in order to lend balance to the Indian T20I side. What he has done for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, ever since he started playing for them in 2016, cannot be ignored anymore. The 28-year-old has been one of the best T20 players in the country in the last couple of years and he proved that yet again on Sunday, 4 August, as India sealed the fate of the three-match T20I series against West Indies with a 22-run victory (DLS method) in the second T20I at Florida.
India was off to a flying start as the opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan yielded 67 runs inside the first eight overs of their innings. However, the rest of the batsmen could only add 65 runs in the next 51 deliveries and, thus, couldn't provide the necessary impetus required towards the back end of the innings. India was on a score of 132/4 when Krunal Pandya walked out to bat in the 17th over. Their hopes rested on him as he had played numerous valuable cameos in such situations for the Mumbai Indians over the years.
However, nothing special happened in the next couple of overs as only 15 more runs were added along with the loss of Manish Pandey's wicket. Krunal was batting on an individual score of seven which he had scored at less than run-a-ball as well. With the score on 147/5 in the 19th over, it looked like India was only going to post a middling total in the 150s.
But Krunal had other ideas!
Keemo Paul came on to bowl the last over and his first two deliveries were lofted for two huge sixes by the Baroda all-rounder. The first one was sent to the deep square leg boundary with a powerful flick on a delivery bowled onto his pads and the second one was deposited to the long-off boundary as Paul bowled a full delivery outside off. The momentum had suddenly changed with those two hits and India could now aim at a competitive total of around 170. They did get that as the final score read 167/5 and Krunal remained unbeaten on a valuable contribution of 20 off just 13 deliveries yet again.
He had done his job with the bat and, now, it was time for him to deliver with the ball. He had already bowled a tidy spell of 4-1-20-1 in the first T20I. And the confidence gained through his batting in this match was only going to help him do even better with the ball this time around.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli didn't seek his bowling services until the 10th over of the innings. West Indies were in a decent position with a total of 57/2 on the board. Rovman Powell, batting on 36 off just 16 deliveries, was looking dangerous at the crease and Nicholas Pooran, being a left-handed batsman, could think of taking on Krunal as he had a natural advantage to his left-arm orthodox bowling style . But Krunal bowled a tight first over in which he conceded just five runs and followed that up with yet another disciplined over even though he got hit for a six off the last delivery. In his first two overs, he had conceded just 14 runs at an economy rate of 7.00, which was much less than the asking rate of 10.09 when he came on to bowl.
Yes, he didn't have any success to show in the wickets' column in his first couple of overs but he had successfully piled on the pressure on the West Indian batsmen. Realising that, Kohli gave him a third straight over and Krunal delivered with both the wickets of Pooran and Powell in the same over. Pooran was out caught on the long on boundary trying to clear the fence on the second and Powell was trapped plumb in front of the stumps on the fifth delivery of the over. Powell's wicket, in particular, was important in the context of the game as he had taken the attack on to the Indian bowlers with his innings of 54 off 34 deliveries.
Krunal finished with a spell of 3.3-0-23-2 as rain interrupted in the 16th over of the innings. Hence, it was his all-round contribution that stood out once again despite a fabulous knock of 67 runs from Rohit Sharma early on in the match.
In fact, since his debut, he is the only player from the top 10 T20I teams to have taken 10 or more wickets along with scoring 100 or more runs.
His 102 runs in a total of seven innings have come at a decent average of 25.50 and an excellent strike-rate of 132.46 while batting between positions six and eight. Moreover, his run-tally is the fourth highest among batsmen batting between these positions since his debut.
Krunal is also the second highest wicket-taker in T20Is with a tally of 14 wickets since his debut. Only Sheldon Cottrell has taken more wickets (15) than him during this period. He is the highest wicket-taker for India during this time-frame as well and that tells us a lot about his abilities.
It is quite clear how valuable Krunal has been to the Indian side with his all-round abilities. He, along with his brother Hardik Pandya, has been an invaluable asset to the Mumbai Indians over the years and he is proving himself to be so at the international level as well for India. He is a wicket-taker with the ball and with the bat, he is more than just a slogger down the order. In fact, he has the ability to bat higher up the order as well and his flexibility at various positions is summed up by the numbers in the table below.
He averages above 20 in all the positions he has batted and that is a hall-mark of a good T20 player. His statistics at No 3, even though sample size is small, is impressive in particular. So, just like his brother, Hardik, Krunal’s flexibility also gives India the luxury to play an extra batsman or even a bowler depending on the conditions of the venue and the threat posed by the opposition. With the T20 World Cup just a year away, Krunal’s rise to prominence is good news for the Indian team. India would be a force to reckon with if they go into the mega event in Australia next year with Krunal and Hardik forming the nucleus of the team.
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