Krunal Pandya, one of the most bankable stars in the Indian Premier League, has become a household name because of his antics with three-time champions Mumbai Indians. Apart from his handy slow left-arm orthodox bowling, the all-rounder from Baroda is more than capable as a batsman at lower down the order. With his maiden India A call-up, the 26-year old has just inched a bit closer towards his "dream" of playing for India but his "ultimate goal" is to play the 2019 World Cup in England alongside younger brother Hardik.
"The aim is not just to represent India for a couple of matches here and there but to play for as long as possible. It would be a dream come true if I and Hardik can together play for India in the 2019 World Cup. But right now, the focus will be on doing well for India A," Krunal told PTI after his selection in the A squad for a limited-overs series in South Africa.
In fact, Hardik called him from Antigua after getting the news of his 'A' team selection.
"Hardik was ecstatic. He called me and said that 'You are getting there'. Having already played for India, he has an insight about top-flight cricket and I always discuss with him to pick finer points. There can't be a close buddy than your own brother," says Krunal.
While he has been one of the vital components for the Mumbai Indians in their IPL triumph, he attributes his success to the hard work he had put in to counter the 'Second Season Syndrome' that affects many cricketers.
"I knew opposition teams would study my game during this edition of the IPL after a reasonably good first season. I had to work on my weaknesses as the second season becomes the very key in an international level tournament like IPL. I worked on both aspects of my game and it paid off," said Krunal, who scored 243 runs and took 10 wickets in 13 IPL games.
For the older among Pandya siblings, his performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy also helped him make a case for himself in the 50-over format.
"It was a tough first few months as I had undergone surgery for quadriceps muscle injury. I was out of action for four to five months. The Vijay Hazare Trophy was like my comeback tournament for Baroda.
"We played the semi-finals and I had the highest runs (366) and highest wickets (11) for our team. I had a couple of the 30s in the Deodhar Trophy. All these performances helped my confidence," said 26-year-old Krunal, who has played 14 List A and 40 T20 matches, said.
His slow left-arm orthodox bowling has been restrictive but Krunal backs his style.
"My thinking is simple. When you are batting, think like a bowler to stay one step ahead and vice versa while bowling. Reading the mind of an opposition player is very important," he said.
His skill set is pretty similar to Ravindra Jadeja, who is an established India player, and Axar Patel, who will be with him on the flight to South Africa but the Baroda lad wants to focus on his own game.
"I would only like to focus on things which are in my control. I can't perform thinking about who are my competitors. My job is to maximise my potential and perform to the best of my abilities. I will strive to do that," he concluded.