As potential T20I debut looms, Krunal Pandya brimming with confidence
Krunal Pandya's success in the IPL has seen his stock as a T20I player soar. (Image: BCCI)

Krunal Pandya, elder brother of India allrounder Hardik, is hopeful of getting a debut during the three T20Is against West Indies to secure a long-cherished dream.

Retained in India’s T20I squad having been added during the tour of England this summer, the 27-year-old could make his international debut during the three-match series starting November 4 at Eden Gardens. Getting to know that he as part of the T20I squad for this series and the one in Australia later this month was a surprise for Krunal.

“I was really surprised and obviously, happy when I got to know of my selection,” he told the Times of India. “The team was announced at 10.30pm. [My wife] Pankhuri told me that I was selected for the T20s against West Indies. After that, when I logged on to Twitter, I saw my name in the Indian T20 team for Australia also. Hardik had gone to sleep by then, as he had to train in the morning. However, he came out after he got to know and was all excited.”

This was a selection waiting to happen since the Baroda allrounder delivered Man-of-the-Match performances in the last IPL season’s semi-final and final as Mumbai Indians surged to the title. In this year’s IPL, after Mumbai Indians bought him back for Rs 8.8 crore – the most for an uncapped player at the auction – Krunal scored 228 runs at a strike-rate of 145.22 and claimed 12 wickets while conceding runs at 7.07 per over.

Mumbai Indians bought Krunal Pandya back for Rs 8.8 crore after his heroics in 2017
Mumbai Indians bought Krunal Pandya back for Rs 8.8 crore after his heroics in 2017. @PTI

This earned him selection for India A’s tour of England, where he contributed three wickets at an economy rate of 5.44 and 37 runs in two innings to the team’s tri-series victory before being called up to India’s T20I team after injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Washington Sundar.

During the quadrangular one-day series in August, Krunal made 96 runs in four innings for India A to go with four wickets at an excellent economy rate of 4.80.

Krunal credits this run of consistency, followed by his appointment as Baroda captain and an India call-up, to his wife. “I got married in December, and in January, I became the most expensive uncapped player in the IPL A few months later I was picked for the Indian team in England when I least expected it since I was with the India A team there, and now this. Obviously lady luck is working,” he said.

A week with the Indian T20I squad in England gave Krunal the chance to observe MS Dhoni from close range, which left him overawed. “I was there for a very short time. I was with the India A team there, before I was called up into the squad. I observed Mahi bhai closely during those six days. I told myself: ‘I want to be like him.’ The way he carries himself, his simplicity, grace, he’s achieved so much, but is so down to earth,” he said.

Though he will not currently get the chance to fulfil his dream of playing for India alongside his brother, who is on the sidelines after the back injury sustained during the Asia Cup in September, Krunal will seek Hardik out ahead of the Australia tour.

“He just told me to go out and play bindaas (carefree) cricket. I’ll pick his brains about how to play in Australia, since he’s been there twice,” he said. “It’s a dream that in future we will play together for India, like we do for Mumbai Indians. From childhood, we’ve played all our cricket together.”