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Krunal is key


Krunal_Pandya_IPL_Mumbai_Indians_CricketBought for a meager sum of INR 10 lakhs in 2015, Hardik Pandya was an unknown name till he hit Chennai Super Kings bowler Pawan Negi out of the park, helping his side to an unlikely win. That wasn’t the only bit of genius the youngster displayed. His knocks against Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore were of note and helped Mumbai Indians’ surge.

A year later, Mumbai Indians put their faith in Hardik’s elder brother, Krunal Pandya, who was bought at a price of 2 crores; a sum ridiculed by many as Krunal was an unknown quantity and had not taken the domestic season by storm either. Many voices in unison asked: “who is he and why is he being bought for this much?”

It didn’t take too long for people to get their answer. Playing at Wankhede, Mumbai Indians were struggling at 88/6 just when Krunal came in to bat at 7. A crucial 11-ball 22 runs innings later, the Mumbai outfit reached a respectable total of 143 in their 20 overs. Though the team failed to win the game, Krunal’s contribution was noteworthy and what was even more significant; his temperament, composure and ability to handle pressure with utter ease.

It was just the next game where he gave further testimony to his prowess, powering Mumbai Indians to a good total with his entertaining 28 ball 49. 

So when Krunal came into bat in the final of IPL 2017, with Mumbai Indians tottering at 41/3, which soon read even worse at 79/7, there would have been some sort of relief seeing the southpaw in the middle. Mumbai called for time-out with 14.1 overs played and the discussion would have been centred around reminding how Krunal started his sojourn with the two time champions and emphasizing on how he needs to just do the same. 

Krunal’s mature head was at display yet again and the Ahmedabad born all-rounder helped Mumbai Indians reach a face-saving total of 129. And as it panned out, it turned out to be the difference as the Mumbai Indians claimed their third IPL title by 1 run and as a result, put the age-old cliché “every run counts” at the centre of all analysis.

This wasn’t the only instance of Krunal coming to the fort in a pressure game. Mumbai Indians, chasing a miserly 108 against Kolkata Knight Riders, were caught on the wrong foot, losing 3 wickets for 34. Krunal played the perfect counter-attacking innings, scoring a 30-ball 45 to help Mumbai cruise to a win and book a place in the final.


Krunal’s ability to read the game, the opposition’s mind and assess what best fits the situation has been incredible and something the Gujarat lad has brought to light, time and again.

Krunal had a brilliant 2016 season of the IPL. He scored 237 runs at an average of 39.50 and a strike rate in excess of 190. He also showed real promise as an all-rounder, picking up 6 wickets in 12 games and bowling some miserly spells to help build pressure where his teammates could benefit. 

This season was an antithesis of his previous season as Krunal got out for just 3 and got hit for 21 off his 2 overs in the very first game against the Rising Pune Supergiant. But yet again, the 26-year-old showed great mental strength in just the next game as he sent 3 Kolkata batsmen back into the hut before playing a short but attacking innings to help lay the foundation for victory.

In the next game too, Krunal made a wonderful contribution with the bat under adverse conditions and took his team over the line while chasing 159, a target in the region where most teams get stuck.

In the games to come, Krunal went on to make crucial contributions, chipping in, with a wicket or two when needed and playing knocks that perfectly suited the situation finishing with 243 runs and 10 wickets in the 13 matches he played. 

Soon enough, Mumbai Indians had qualified for the next stage. While Krunal didn’t stand out, his performances were an integral part of the journey. In a blow for his team, Krunal was injured and had to sit out with no certain return date. Among the few games he missed were two losses for Mumbai Indians against Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad. 

In his absence, Karn Sharma got a chance and he showcased what he is capable of. Karn was the show stopper in the 2nd qualifier. He also bowled a brilliant spell in the final to restrict the flow of runs, which in turn put the pressure back on Pune. So even in his absence, Krunal benefitted the team in a way that they would be thankful to him.

Having won the Man of the Match in the final, Krunal ended the season on a high note and made everyone account for his useful contributions through the journey. And while he might not have scored the most runs or taken heaps of wickets, his mental strength was something that stood out and helped Mumbai Indians in situations they needed the most.

A common sight this season was Mumbai’s top order not taking responsibility. Krunal was always there down the order to shoulder the increased weight and, with his temperament, guide the team to their target.


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Anubhav is an engineer turned Sports Management professional who decided to make his love and passi...

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