When the India A team for the tour of South Africa was announced, it was way past midnight in Antigua, but there was one man not willing to hit the sack. He would have probably got a good night’s sleep after a phone call made back home in India. The Pandya brothers - Krunal and Hardik - talk daily, but this phone call was special. Though miles apart from each other, the two on Thursday were one step closer to realizing their dream of playing for India together.
For the first time, elder brother Krunal was named in the India A side. The all-rounder was included in the one-day side for the tour starting next month with Australia being the third team. “We speak daily, but today he stayed up to congratulate me. It is our collective to dream to play for India together. Getting selected for the India A team is great news and everyone in our family is delighted,” an elated Krunal told BCCI.TV.
Often troubled by injuries, Krunal has raced against time to be in race for India A spots. Before IPL 9, Krunal had missed the domestic season owing to a shoulder injury and in the last season he hurt his quadriceps while fielding.
He was sidelined for three months and it was at NCA that he got back on the path of recovery. “A lot of credit must go to our NCA trainer Rajnikant (Strength & Conditioning Coach). He really looked after me. There was a sling strapped to my leg and for three months I had to take the help of a walker to move around. Injuries are not easy to deal with. I had to be strong mentally and to tell you frankly, I am happy with the way I have returned after each setback.”
Former India wicket-keeper Kiran More first saw Krunal when he was seven. The former chief selector was happy to see his ward progress. “When the Pandya brothers had come to my academy they had a dream to play for India but did not even know how to hold a bat. Krunal has missed a lot of cricket owing to injuries, but credit to him for the way he has shown his character whenever he has got the opportunity. I always tell the boys that performance is in your hands and you must focus on that. Krunal has performed really well. He has a lot of potential and has worked doubly hard to be here post injuries,” said More.
In the IPL, Krunal proved his versatility as an all-rounder. His agility and sharp fielding make him a complete package. The 26-year-old said he was open to any role. “We must remember that cricket is a team sport. From the start of my career, I did not limit myself to a particular role. I believe in flexibility and always look forward to playing different roles for the team. I never hesitate. For MI, I have bowled in Powerplay and even in the slog overs. Even in the batting department, I have virtually batted at every position in the middle-order.
“I relish pressure situations. The satisfaction you get from helping your team out of trouble is unmatched.”
He added that once the team arrives in South Africa, he will look to perform from the word go. “It is a very important tour of me. I will get to learn a lot. The conditions are going to be different, but the goal is to hit the ground running and deliver in the same manner as I did in the IPL.”
He was a bit emotional as the talk veered on his early days. “We had moved to Baroda from Surat when we were still kids. My parents have sacrificed a lot. It is thanks to them that we have reached this stage. I also thank my coach Jitendra Singh. I am not going to be content playing a few matches for India A. My eventual goal is to play for India and that is the target.