A fighter by spirit, a man of the match award in an IPL final and three very good all-round IPL seasons coupled with a decent List A record. What else can Krunal Pandya, the hard-hitting all-rounder from Baroda, do to seal a berth in the Indian limited-overs squad? The talks for his inclusion in at least the T20 squad, if not the ODI setup, grew stronger as the date for the announcement of Indian limited overs contingent for the England tour came closer and when the squads for the limited-overs leg were finally announced on 8th of May, the Baroda all-rounder and his fans gained nothing but dismay as his name found no mention in either of the two lists. The earlier belief that he was unlucky got a serious boost with this non-selection.

When the talent machine of IPL, Mumbai Indians, threw him into the IPL fold back in April 2016, he was perceived to be a hitting maverick who could give his skipper one or two overs with the ball. Now, he is three summers old in the IPL setup and look at the transformation that he underwent in this period. He is no longer the maverick who was expected to win one or two games for the team instead he finds himself among the all-important core players of Mumbai setup, which includes his younger brother Hardik too, who have the responsibility of taking their team’s campaign forward.

Krunal shot to fame in his debut IPL season in 2016 where he impressed all and sundry with his good all-round skills. His willow fetched him 237 runs from 12 games at an impressive average of 39.50 but what was particularly striking was the rate of his run-scoring which stood at a humungous figure of 191 which was highest for any batsman in that season. Besides his exploits with the bat, his left-arm orthodox spin accounted for 6 wickets which came at a very good economy of 7.5 runs an over. His all-round performance that season is best exemplified by his exploits in the Vishakhapatnam clash against Delhi Daredevils where he scored a blistering 86 off just 37 balls which included seven fours and six maximums and returned with the ball to remove Quinton de Kock and Zaheer Khan to win the match for his team.

He was in an imperious form before the next IPL season as he rocked the all-round charts for the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2016-17- the domestic List A competition in India. In that competition, he scored a total of 366 runs from 8 games at a very good average of 45.75 and registered a decent tally of 11 wickets which came at a good 4.82 runs per over. His exploits played a huge role in Baroda’s journey to the semi-finals in that competition.

He carried on his good form in the 2017 IPL season where he recorded 243 runs with the bat along with 10 wickets from the 13 games that he played in the season. The striking feature of his performance was his strike-rate which hovered around 135, a big contrast to 2016’s 191, which reflected his growing maturity and understanding of his important role in the team. He adjusted his batting according to the need of the situation and his match-winning knock in the final against Rising Pune Supergiant serves as the best example of this transformation. His knock of 47 runs pulled his team out from a dire situation, 79 for 7 wickets in the fourteenth over, and helped put up a respectable total of 129 runs which ultimately proved to be a match-winning one.

His economy rate of 6.82 runs per over for the season reflected his growth as a bowler. He had some discomfort while bowling to the left-handers in his debut season which was the reason why his economy touched the higher side of seven. He identified that chink in his armor and worked hard to improve it and the results were evident in his bowling in the 2017 tournament which fetched him 10 wickets, an improvement over the previous season’s tally of 6. His tight bowling and ferocious but calculated hitting earned him an India A call-up for South Africa A tour in August last year.

His power-packed performances in the last two seasons sky-rocketed his IPL value as he earned a whopping INR 8.8 Cr. price tag by the very same Mumbai Indians in the mega auctions earlier this year. This is the highest price tag for an uncapped player, domestic or international, in the history of IPL. He has so far lived up to that hefty sum with his bat yielding 192 runs from 12 games at a strike-rate in excess of 146 besides picking up 11 wickets at a miserly economy of 6.94 runs per over.

He stepped up brilliantly in the absence of Harbhajan Singh to take up the role of the lead spinner for his team and has forged a very successful bowling partnership with the young sensation, Mayank Markande. Considering his decent run in this year’s IPL, he was expected to book a ticket to England at least for the three-match T20 series but bad luck reigned supreme again as the coveted national call-up continues to evade him.

His inclusion will have provided a greater balance to the squad as India don’t have a potent left-arm spinner who can create an authoritative impact with the bat. Ravindra Jadeja, who previously served this purpose, has long been out of contention for an ODI berth and Kuldeep Yadav, another left-arm tweaker who has been picked for the England tour, is no match for the elder Pandya when it comes to batting. Washington Sundar, who is the only proper spin-bowling all-rounder in the team, has been woeful with the ball in this IPL season.

All these equations warranted a consideration as its high time when Krunal gets what his talent deserves. He is no longer the player who can be confined to the A-team. He is that calculated swashbuckler who can single-handedly make a win-loss difference. His non-selection is surely a grave disappointment but he is not the one who will get bogged down instead he will take it as another learning curve and will come back roaring into contention as an even more mature and improved all-rounder which eventually will make it seriously difficult for the selectors to ignore his name on the next occasion.