An ODI debut is something special and an emotional moment for the player involved. In the case of Krunal, the elder of the two Pandya brothers, the emotion of the occasion, the day before his 30th birthday, was stirred by more than his pride and passion for India.
The brothers have recently lost their father, the man who encouraged them despite many domestic difficulties.
Krunal’s longtime coach, Jitendra Singh, talked about how Himanshu Pandya had a dream for Krunal to get back in the Indian national team following the last of his 18 T20 appearances for India in 2019.
“Tell me honestly, will Krunal play for India?” his father would ask, according to Jitendra.
More than Hardik, he revealed, it was Krunal, the elder of the two, that Himanshu was desperate to see play for India. “I can understand where KP’s emotion reactions came from,” he told the Indian Express.
Batting at No 7 on Tuesday, Krunal smashed 58 runs off just 31 balls in the first of the three-match series against England. He guided India’s score well past 300, his partnership of 112 runs from just 57 balls with KL Rahul proving decisive.
As Krunal reached his half-century he pointed his bat to the sky in his late father’s honour and banged himself on the head repeatedly, clearly trying to keep emotions in check.
Hardik, who had presented Krunal with his cap before play, looked on in delight and the pair shared a touching embrace at the mid-innings interval.
Times had clearly been tough for the Pandyas as Jitendra laid bare. “Himanshubhai’s heart attack was the first blow. Then his business went down. The money dried up.
“One dream he had was about Krunal playing for India. Hardik was still young, then. But the financial troubles meant Krunal was distressed and distracted. He was young but the elder son. As the years went by, especially during financial troubles, he started to drift. ‘Where will the money come from, how will the household run, should I get a regular job once I grow up’? Thoughts like that,” he said.
Little wonder that then that feelings were close to the surface.
Make no mistake though, as much as his father had willed him to recover a spot in the India national team, it was Krunal’s stellar form for Baroda in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the domestic 50-over tournament that had made his claim to a place impossible to ignore. He scored 388 runs with two hundreds and two fifties in five innings for an average of 129 and also picked up five wickets.
The Pandya family will be hoping Krunal can keep that national place alongside his brother for a while to come and continue to honour the unstinting love, dedication and support of the late Himanshu.