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It is perhaps inexplicable why Krunal Pandya’s debut took so long. He has watched frustrated as Deepak Chahar and Washington Sundar jumped the pecking order. The presence of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel made it tough for Krunal, who is believed to be in the same mould, to make it into the side.
Truth be told, Krunal is perhaps the missing piece in India’s batting puzzle, one which also solves a lot of their T20 bowling issues. In his debut match, at Eden Gardens, Krunal was used by Rohit Sharma to hurt Kieron Pollard’s ego. Pollard, who plays for Mumbai Indians, wanted to dominate Krunal, a debutant and his IPL teammate.
Rohit Sharma was using Krunal as a bait to throw Pollard off track. The move, one which could well have been from Mike Brearley’s captaincy book had he written one, was street smart, but it still required execution. This was a debutant, supposed to be nervous on debut thrown in front of a beast like Pollard. Instead Krunal held his nerve, tossed the ball up, mixed his pace and even after conceding a six, had Pollard caught out in the exact manner that he wanted him to be dismissed.
The one dismissal should have put to rest doubts regarding Krunal’s ability to adapt to international cricket. The flying kiss after the dismissal showed he was least unnerved by the occasion – his debut. Krunal is a crisis man, an economical stump to stump bowler, a terrific striker of the ball and a game-changer with bat and ball.
Remember the Man of the Match performance in the IPL 2017 finals? Remember his Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign in 2017 for Baroda? Krunal is a match-winner. He has proven that at multiple levels. What he perhaps ideally needs is a captain like Rohit Sharma. One who could give him the leeway to play his kind of game.
Krunal’s all-round abilities are perhaps best fit in the current Indian side. But will they use him well? It is perhaps opportune to look back on MS Dhoni’s widely appreciated ‘chaos theory’ at this juncture, for Krunal is the ideal guy to execute that to perfection in this India side.
Krunal doesn’t panic under pressure, is great at rotating strike and importantly has a terrific strike rate in the first few balls he faces in a T20 game
In the last league game of CSK’s IPL 2018, Dhoni did a Bradman and sent a couple from the tail to the top order after Ankit Rajpoot reduced CSK to 27 for 3 in conditions where the ball swung around. Deepak Chahar and Harbhajan Singh’s entry saw the Kings XI attack, disciplined until then, throw a lot more loose balls.
“With Bhajji (Harbhajan) or Chahar going in, it creates a bit of chaos. The bowlers all of a sudden starts to bowl yorkers, short of length or bouncers. When batsmen are batting, the bowlers somehow stick to a very good line and length,” Dhoni had said then, describing his move.
The current Indian T20 side has an opening in the lower middle order and more flexibility than before. Krunal has grabbed his chance but surely India could use his skills with the bat more. Now that Rohit and Dhawan are scoring the bulk of the runs, India aren’t feeling the heat.
Krunal could play a bigger role with the bat to disrupt the rhythm of the bowlers and create ‘chaos’. He was used to that effect multiple times at Mumbai Indians with a clear-cut example being his knock against Gujarat Lions that tied the game for Mumbai Indians after they were 14 for 3.
Krunal doesn’t panic under pressure, is great at rotating strike and importantly has a terrific strike rate in the first few balls he faces in a T20 game. He barely needs to settle in before going big which is a quality that could be quite useful when batting behind a consistent top order.
Add to that his economy with the ball and he forms the perfect partner to Kuldeep Yadav. Krunal’s stump to stump line and economy of 6.14 in IPL 2018 on a high-scoring Mumbai pitch shows how well he can hold himself against big hitters. With Kuldeep needing the leeway to attack, Krunal’s stinginess serves India well in the middle-overs.
If Krunal can keep his injuries at bay, he would add immense value to India in T20Is at least.