It’s amazing to see how two wins have changed the mood of the Mumbai Indians camp completely. A few more smiles are around and they only got bigger after they completed a convincing win over the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.
A lot of the talk will focus on Hardik Pandya’s superb all-round show – 35 off 20 balls and 2-19 off 4 overs. But his brother, Krunal, has been making crucial contributions to Mumbai’s cause as well and together, they are giving this MI squad some serious heft in the middle.
So much about this Mumbai team revolves around the Pandya brothers. One look at their statistics this season shows why MI depend on them:
Hardik: 9 matches, 169 runs, avg 33.80, SR 128.03
Krunal: 10 matches, 181 runs, avg 25.85, SR 148.36 (highest in MI)
Hardik: 9 matches, 14 wickets (most in IPL), avg 16.78, ER 8.49
Krunal: 10 matches, 9 wickets, avg 22.33, ER 7.44 (second lowest in MI)
Hardik’s performance against KKR will give him even more confidence and with Mumbai deciding that Pollard’s form isn’t good enough, they need the India allrounder to be at his absolute best if they want to beat the top teams.
Too often in the past, Hardik would seem like a lucky bowler. He had the wicket-taking ability but he would intersperse the wicket-taking balls with plenty of loose balls. He still does that from time to time, but to anyone who has watched him in the past, his growth as a bowler has been immense.Look at the manner in which he kept Chris Gayle quiet in the match against the Kings XI Punjab – attacking the batsman’s legs and giving him little room to swing his powerful arms.
At the end of the 12th over, KKR were cruising – 111/2, needing just 71 runs from 48 balls. And they still had all their big-hitters (Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine) still to come.
But MI somehow pulled it off.
Hardik stepped up to bowl two wonderfully economical overs during this period – 14th over, 5 runs and 1 wicket and the 18th over, 6 runs.
Krunal had been asking Rohit to let him bowl the last over and when he did get the opportunity to do that, he did not disappoint. He conceded just 9 runs in the over even as Karthik was looking to tee off on every ball.
In between, he took a wonderful running catch to send back Russell. He was fielding at short fine leg but had to run backwards towards square leg to take a skier. It was difficult but he wanted it.
If you look at the match just in terms of numbers, it may look like Krunal has not done much. But that’s the thing about him – he wants to be in tough positions and he wants to win it for his team from that point. If Hardik’s natural talent stands out, it is Krunal’s composure under pressure that is truly special.
Even while bowling, Krunal isn’t afraid to toss the ball up, he is confident in his ability to trump the batsmen. He is street smart and for now, that may not rival Ajay Jadeja or Mahendra Singh Dhoni but with experience, he just might get there. The ability to think on your feet is rare and Krunal has that.
There is little that seems to faze the Pandya brothers and that makes them truly great assets to have in the side. And both can get even better. MI finally seems to be settling down after a period of experimentation and that stability will only help them.
Hardik’s bowling has been great but his low batting strike-rate is one thing that many might have noticed. He is one of MI’s power-hitters and he will need to be striking it at more than 128.
Still, MI are winning again and they have enough firepower in their ranks to put any side on notice. The win against KKR was convincing and expect them to only get better from this point on.