All-round brotherhood

When siblings grow up together, there are certain dreams they watch together. It could be as simple as buying a house, going somewhere or something as huge as representing a team in a sport they worship together. Many celebrated siblings have been an integral part of cricket and have succeeded at various level in the sport. We have had the Chappells, Waughs, Flowers, Marshs to name a few. The latest names to fit into this category are Krunal and Hardik Pandya. Wherever they go together, they set the stage on fire and going unnoticed is not a character trait they have.

Before 2015, the Pandyas were unheard of! Mumbai Indians have been known to discover and groom young talent and providing them with opportunities in the IPL to showcase their raw talent. Hardik Pandya was picked up by us before the 2015 season. Ricky Ponting, our coach back then, rated him highly and Hardik didn’t disappoint his expectations. The lean, yet strongly built Hardik proved his worth with the bat with a couple of match-winning performances in the season. If it hadn’t been for an injury, his elder brother Krunal might have been part of our squad too.

The saying goes – it’s better late than never! It was true in Krunal Pandya’s case, as he joined the MI family after the 2016 auction. Like Hardik, Krunal came to the fore with a blistering knock when he was promoted up the batting order. He smashed 86 off just 37 ball, batting at number 3. Pandya was also handy with the ball. At the end of the season, we had two talented and promising brothers who were key all-rounders in our squad.

Before the tenth edition of the IPL, the brothers were retained in our squad. Expectations were riding high on the two of them as they were both picked up for our first game of the 2017 season. Hardik Pandya had a rather under-par season last year, and after being a regular in India’s limited overs side, he would have wanted nothing but a great start to the season. The first game, against Rising Pune Supergiant, was one where we saw a thunderous show by the younger Pandya. He smashed Ashok Dinda for 30 runs off the final over of our innings to take the score to a more-than-respectable one. We lost the game, but Hardik set the tone for our batsmen this season.

The brothers began creating magic together from our second game onwards. It was our first home game, against Kolkata Knight Riders. Krunal rose to the occasion! He bowled an effective spell, picking up 3 wickets for 24 runs in his full quota of 4 overs. Krunal extracted sharp turn too, something he was not consistent at in the first season. He stemmed the run flow, built the pressure and that fetched him the important wickets of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan. Two of the wickets saw contributions by both the brothers with Hardik taking the catches. In the chase, it was Hardik’s turn to leave a mark, after he didn’t get a go with the ball. Hardik didn’t disappoint, finishing the game off during the tense chase with a 11-ball 29. Hardik the finisher was born!

The brothers didn’t stop there! Against the defending champions at home, the brothers swapped roles with the ball. This time it was Hardik’s chance to roll his arm over. He came on when Sunrisers Hyderabad were having a stroll in the park and managed to knock down the dangerous Yuvraj Singh’s stumps. While that was the sole wicket he claimed, Hardik kept a lid on the flow of runs along with Bhajji and the quicks. Krunal bowled just one over, considering there were a few left-handers in the Sunrisers’ camp. Cut to the chase, our innings was on course when Pollard fell with the score on Nelsons. Krunal came ahead of Hardik and put the bowlers to the sword. In a taxing tournament, we know how crucial it can be to maintain a healthy net run-rate and Krunal was up to the task, as he crunched 37 runs off 20 balls. However, the innings revisited its usual pattern, and Hardik came in with a handful of runs required. Once again, Hardik was at the crease when we won the game.

Bengaluru turned out to be a different ball game for us, after the two outings at the Wankhede. The pitch was very dry and tailor-made for bowlers. The two brothers took full toll of the surface and began bowling in tandem. Hardik got us the first breakthrough; that of Gayle, while Krunal kept on creating chances throughout his four overs. They finished with one wicket apiece! The chase wasn’t an easy one for us as we were reduced to 7/4 early on, and 33/5 when Krunal Pandya walked in to join Pollard. The older Pandya showed that he could play a watchful knock as he rebuilt the innings with the other KP. After a quick-fire 37 in the last game, Krunal accumulated the same amount of runs, but off 30 balls this time around. The need of the hour was a knock that would help build a partnership and take us closer to the target. Krunal did just that and when Pollard lost his wicket, the brothers were united at the crease. After struggling for most of the innings, the two saw us home in what was an inspirational victory.

The Pandya brothers have taken centre-stage in almost all of our four games so far. Be it with the ball or the bat, or even on the field, it is nearly impossible to keep them away from the action for long. Their bonding off the field is equally strong and it clearly shows on the field as well. With Kieron Pollard not bowling as often as he used to, the two brothers have a vital role to play with the ball in this season, and as all-rounders. They have proven that they can be relied upon when a partnership needs to be broken or when a leakage of runs needs to be plugged and when the side is in trouble with the bat too. Krunal and Hardik have grown leaps and bounds with our team. They are leading a crop of youngsters who are a vital part of our squad, and are gaining experience with each day on the field.



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