27 needed in 30 balls, India have just lost their fifth wicket, a set batsman is batting on 25 from 26 balls but there are only bowlers to follow them, no Hardik Pandya, no MS Dhoni.
Krunal Pandya walked in to accompany the set Karthik at the crease. West Indies were in with more than a chance, a single to first get off the mark, a couple down the ground but the moment came when he reverse paddled a Fabian Allen delivery past short third man for a boundary to get the innings moving.
Pandya, on debut, in his next six balls, hit two boundaries and finished with 21 in just nine balls to see India home with two overs to spare.
It was this very aspect of Krunal’s game that has helped him grow through the ranks very quickly. The ability to raise his game under pressure and especially when the team needs it the most.
“Very very exciting talent. Krunal, I’ve seen him closely playing for Mumbai Indians. He likes the situation where the team expects him to perform. He was the one who asked me ‘I want to bowl to Pollard, and got him out.’ When you see guys accept challenges and bail the team out, it’s exciting as captain or as a team management,” said the stand-in captain Rohit Sharma, who has seen him do it for his franchise, Mumbai Indians.
In the IPL 2017 final against Rising Pune Supergiants – he lifted the side from being 78 for 6 to have 129 onboard and was instrumental in them defending it.
In Brisbane, he was carted around the park for 55 runs in his four overs yet just four days later, he bamboozled the very same team to register career-best figures of 4/36.
There aren’t too many finger spinners who are lasting the distance for sides in the shortest format of the game but Krunal has so far shown his willingness to not just do what he does best but also improve.
The table below illustrates how well Krunal Pandya has done for India. Ever since he has made his T20I debut, he has played the most games and has done reasonably well with the ball having played the role of a container mostly.
After doing well against West Indies, Krunal Pandya proved his worth once again in the second T20I, he came in with India under pressure after the wicket of Kohli. He took his time at first but come the last over, he smacked two sixes in as many balls and fighting total was suddenly a par total on a sluggish deck.
He then turned up with the ball as well to bag the Man of the Match award. Windies had promoted Rovman Powell at No. 4 and he along with Nicholas Pooran were threatening to take the game away. He got rid of both of them in an over and put India ahead of the DLS par score with the rain around.
In Krunal, India has found the allrounder they have always looked for in Ravindra Jadeja. While Krunal does have his fair share of issues, notably, against the short ball and teams will target him with it, especially on decks which have more bounce.
He didn’t have a good IPL 2019, he averaged 16.63 with the bat and it is where he has to do better. He might not get a lot of time but with no MS Dhoni and the middle order not quite firing, India will want him to come good.
“I’ve been playing domestic cricket and, for India A, I guess that’s my role and when you bat at No. 6 and 7 sometimes you click sometimes you don’t. But it’s important to be in a good frame of mind and work on your game,” Krunal had said in the post-match press conference after the second T20I against West Indies.
It’s the situation awareness and the mindset that has helped him stay in the reckoning with regular performances for the sides he plays for.
India plays T20Is against South Africa, Bangladesh and West Indies at home before playing New Zealand away and all of those attacks will test Krunal and look to put him under pressure in all aspects.
That Krunal is likely to have the company of his younger brother, Hardik should make him better about the challenge. Krunal has quickly become a part of the T20 set-up, much like Hardik who was backed and is starting to repay the faith.
India won the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup with the Pathan brothers contributing, so you never know.