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The Pandya brothers can make it big

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Hardik_Pandya_India_cricketIt is always quite appealing and gratifying at some level to watch brothers successfully play alongside each other in cricket. It makes for some great anecdotes, too. Through the past decades, we have thoroughly enjoyed the exploits of Greg and Ian Chappell, Mark and Steve Waugh, and Andy and Grant Flower: the best known brother duos who played together for their respective countries.

Indian cricket briefly had that thrill in the last decade when Irfan and Yusuf Pathan played for the country. Unfortunately, the two could not last long and are striving to make a return to the national team at present.

Meanwhile, there is another exciting brother duo that has emerged in Indian cricketing circles. Currently playing for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, both Hardik and Krunal Pandya have exhibited traces of genuine talent both with the bat and the ball over the last couple of years. Enough to make one believe they have it in them to go a long way.

In fact, it may not be too far-fetched to say that the two young Baroda boys may well turn out to be an essential part of India’s limited overs fortunes in the 2019 World Cup.

The coming of the Pandyas

One of the best attributes about the IPL is that it brings to the fore some lesser known talents from India’s domestic circles and gives them an opportunity to shine. The same happened with the Pandya brothers.

Both the brothers began their initial training at Kiran More's academy in Vadodara on the persuasion of their cricket fanatic father, Himanshu Pandya. After being honed in the academy, the two went on to play in the same U-19 team for Baroda. Through some consistent performances over the next few years, they became a permanent fixture of the state team.

First to emerge in the limelight was Hardik Pandya. Picked by the Mumbai Indians for a base price of Rs 10 lakh in the February 2015 auction, Hardik made a solid impression in his debut IPL season, holding his own while playing alongside big names like Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard. An unbeaten 31-ball 61 against the Kolkata Knight Riders when Mumbai was in dire straits showed us the first glimpse of his talent.

As the tournament progressed, Hardik demonstrated that he could be an effective all-rounder. He played some terrific cameos with his hard-hitting abilities down the order and provided some neat spells with the ball during the middle overs with his fast-medium pace.

Such was the impression he created in his first IPL itself that the Indian selectors – always on the lookout for good all-rounders – picked Hardik in the Indian team for the T20I series in Australia in early 2016. After an impressive debut in that series, Hardik went on to play crucial roles for India in the T20I series against Sri Lanka at home, followed by the Asia Cup and World T20. Later in 2016, Hardik even made an excellent ODI debut against New Zealand and today is a crucial part of India’s limited overs set up.

Krunal, on the other hand, has had a unique entry in the IPL. After a long layoff due to injury while playing for Baroda, Krunal was picked for a whopping sum of 2 crores by the Mumbai Indians at the IPL 2016 auctions. Interestingly, Krunal had been on Mumbai’s radar from 2014 itself as they were impressed with his genuine all-round performances for Baroda.

Krunal went on to repay that faith with a tremendous display both with the bat and the ball in the 2016 season. Among his most notable contribution was a sensational 37-ball 86 against Delhi Daredevils where he pummeled 6 sixes and 7 fours to guide his side to victory. Along with providing some crucial cameos with the bat, Krunal was also extremely sharp with his left-arm spin and did not allow batsmen to get away.  

Today, both Hardik and Krunal continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the Mumbai Indians’ surge. After the IPL, Hardik will go to England to help India in its defense of the Champions Trophy, while Krunal will have to go back to the domestic grind for Baroda.

For the future

With so little experience, one might say that Hardik and Krunal still need a lot of time before they can make it big at the international level. However, just observing them closely makes one believe that they have it in them. These are two fiercely talented and fearless cricketers who have that extra punch so essential for modern day cricket.

Hardik, 23, is the more swashbuckling of the two. He has this West Indian swagger and nonchalance coupled with an ability to strike mighty blows on any ground. His 26-year-old brother, Krunal, appears to be an intelligent cricketer. Both his batting and bowling show a canny observation of the game and he rarely seems to let his emotions get the better of him. While Krunal’s crafty spin bowling has been much talked about – he has got AB de Villiers out four times in the IPL – he can be equally destructive as a batsman and truly is one for the future.

It goes without saying that Team India has always been bereft of decent all-rounders for quite some time now. Hardik and Krunal can fill that void with great success. This can be said with some certainty because the brothers are not just bits and pieces cricketers but bona fide all-rounders with an equal grip on both aspects of their game.

The future, of course, is unpredictable. But if nurtured properly, Hardik and Krunal can go on to play a huge part in the future of Indian limited overs cricket. They have that much touted X-Factor about them.

I can just feel that while Hardik and Krunal Pandya may not be of the same bracket as the Waugh or the Chappell brothers, they are likely to leave a significant mark on Indian cricket in the days to come.

 

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