Krunal Pandya | Out of his brother's shadow and into the limelight

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©Mumbai Indians Twitter

Krunal Pandya | Out of his brother's shadow and into the limelight

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Amlan Majumdar


They are like Sonny and Michael Corleone from The Godfather. One a level-headed, calm and modest man, while the other is exuberant, brash, dynamic and is bordering on the edge of narcissism. One is an explosive left-handed batsman and a handy left-arm spinner, while the other is a right-arm medium pacer, with the ability to score handy runs down the order and a more than decent fielder.

Hardik and Kunal Pandya's cricketing careers also got off to contrasting starts. However their fates have always been intertwined. Hardik followed Krunal into cricket, and now Krunal has followed his younger brother to Mumbai Indians. When Krunal made his IPL debut against Gujarat Lions earlier this month, it was the first time two brothers made an appearance for the same team in an IPL game. It was apt as well, since it was Gujarat where the story of these two brothers was scripted.

Hardik would accompany his elder brother to his practice sessions at Kiran More's academy in Gujarat’s third-largest city of Vadodara. It was during one of those sessions, when Hardik, who was simply fooling around at the ground, caught Kiran More's eye, and the former Indian wicket-keeper asked him to attend the practice sessions from the next day.

Both the brothers rose through the youth ranks side by side, yet, it was a 16-year-old Hardik who stole the limelight with a stunning innings of 228, his current jersey number for the Mumbai Indians, which helped Baroda's U-19 team to a memorable win over Mumbai.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the younger brother. Hardik's rise to stardom was delayed when he missed two years of cricket due to an off the field incident – and inadvertently it was Krunal who instigated it. Krunal filled up the ball-boy application on behalf of his brother for a match between India and Australia. He was unaware of the fact that Hardik had an exam on the very same day. So when a senior coach asked Hardik to perform his duty, he refused to do so. That led to him being dropped from the U-16 and U-19 teams for two years.

But once Hardik returned, his rise was swift. Hardik outshone his elder brother and even made his T20 debut for Baroda, against Bengal, nine days before Krunal. Even fortune has not been too kind to Krunal. Just when his performances with the bat and ball in the DY Patil tournament was drawing attention from Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils scouts last year, he suffered a labral tear while fielding in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament.

While Krunal missed a full year of competitive cricket after undergoing a surgery, his brother was signed by the Mumbai Indians for Rs.10 lakh, made his debut for the national team and has now returned to play his second season of the IPL.

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Mumbai Indians signed Krunal for a whopping Rs 2 crore in the auction earlier this year. Especially, considering he is yet to make his First-class debut for Baroda, and that he was out of competitive cricket for over a year. However, for people who have followed his growth and potential, it was not a surprise at all.

(Also, read about the unheard and the untested players, who stole the show at IPL auction)

Krunal had already grabbed the attention of Rahul Sanghvi and Kiran More, both of whom scout for Mumbai Indians, before he suffered that terrible injury. They were regularly in touch with Krunal, even while he was recuperating after his surgery.

The 25-year-old has now been provided with a second opportunity to make a name for himself, and going by his performances in the last two games against Gujarat Lions and Sunrisers Hyderabad, he is here to stay. Krunal has outshone his younger brother in both these games. A quick-fire innings towards the end against Gujarat, followed by a tight spell of left-arm spin in the second innings made for a wonderful debut. He has backed that up with another trailblazing knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad scoring an unbeaten when rest of the batting crumbled. Although Mumbai lost both of those games, Krunal can be proud of the way he has started out in this tournament.

Money and fame might be knocking on the doors of the Pandya brothers presently, but things were not always rosy for them. Every success story is preceded by a tale of sacrifice, and Himanshu Pandya, father of Hardik and Krunal, is the protagonist of this tale.

Krunal's love affair with the sport started from a young age, back when his family resided in Surat. His father Himanshu Pandya ran a car finance business, which was faring well at that point. One day, a local coach came up to Himanshu and insisted that Krunal had a lot of cricketing potential. This excited Himanshu and he took his son to enroll him in Kiran More's academy in Vadodara. Krunal was a six-year-old kid back then, and relying on his potential to make it big in cricket, Himanshu closed down his business and shifted to Vadodara. He understood the need for proper training, and knew that Krunal will not be able to receive that at Surat.

Every day in the afternoon, Himanshu would drive his sons to the practice ground, which was about 25 kms away from their home. However, the relocation and the setting up of his business at Vadodara came at a huge price for Himanshu.

His car finance business failed to take off in the new city and soon financial problems were followed by health issues. Himanshu went back to Surat to start a passport consultancy, however, three heart attacks in two years meant he had to shut it down.

Financially, the Pandyas had hit rock bottom at that point. In fact earlier this year, Hardik Pandya revealed how he and his brother used to survive on Maggi the whole day.

"My brother and I used to get maggi for Rs 5 and we used to request the gardener to give us hot water and we used to prepare and eat it at the ground for lunch and breakfast. 365 days non-stop.

"We spent the whole day at the ground. I was in deep debts and whatever money I earned sufficed only for paying the debts. Forget Rs 10, I didn't even have Rs 5," Hardik Pandya said in an interview to the Indian Express.

He might be a crorepati now, but Krunal remembers his past, his roots, and that has kept him firmly grounded. They still stay in the same apartment, they still own the same car – which Krunal had insisted that he will not sell as it reminds him of the struggle they had to undergo to just keep it running.

Both the brothers have experienced the same past, however, both have processed it differently on the face of their new-found successes. While Hardik believes in living life king size, Krunal still relies on his brother to keep him up to date on the latest fashion. At this moment, Krunal is only occupied by the desire to establish himself in the Mumbai Indians squad. It is his time to shine now. It is his time to become much more than just a footnote on the career of his younger brother.

Note - This article was written before the match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore

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