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The Pandya brothers Krunal and Hardik lost their father Himanshu on January 16. On Tuesday, when Krunal made his ODI debut in Pune against England, and marked the occasion with a match-winning half-century, it was an emotional moment for the brothers, especially the older Pandya, who broke down during an interaction with the broadcasters during the break between innings.
Speaking to Hardik - who presented his brother with his India ODI cap - afterwards on bcci.tv, Krunal said, "This is all dedicated to the old man, his blessings are there with us, and obviously it was very emotional - for you and me, both of us - and again, getting the cap from you, and I guess somewhere down the line, up there, he must be having a good night today, and enjoying the way I batted. So yeah, this is for him."
And, as he revealed, Krunal had brought a bit of his father with him to the Indian dressing room in Pune, in the form of the clothes Pandya Sr had planned to wear that January 16 morning.
"I was playing Syed Mushtaq Ali on that day, 16th morning. He had a habit of keeping his clothes ready and select everything, his shoes, his pant, his shirts, hat as well… So what I did was just before the game, I got his bag from Baroda here…," Krunal said, adding that it was his way to make sure he had his father with him for the big day.
On that January morning, after Himanshu's death at 4am, Krunal left the bio-secure bubble in Vadodara that the Baroda team was in for the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, to rush back home, and Hardik joined him after leaving the India camp in Mumbai.
Krunal managed to play just three games in the tournament as a result of the personal tragedy, even as Kedar Devdhar took charge of the team and took Baroda all the way to the final where they lost to Tamil Nadu. But Krunal had a remarkable run in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy after that, finishing with 388 runs - two half-centuries and two centuries - from five innings at an average of 129.33 and strike rate of 117.93.
That led to selection for the England ODIs for the Mumbai Indians man, and a debut straightaway after he had played 18 T20Is between 2018 and 2019.
"Dream come true, obviously. I have worked so hard to be here. Especially the last one-and-a-half months I have been putting in those hard yards not just in terms of cricket but in terms of everything: from taking care of my diet to fitness to everything," Krunal told Hardik. "I have not been working now (with a) result-oriented mind, my focus has always been lately about how I can be the best version of myself, how I can improve not just as a cricketer but how I can improve as a human being as well.
"So that focus has always been on the process rather than the result, whether that's good or bad is secondary for me, neither am I thinking about it. The only constant focus is how I can give the best opportunity to myself before every game."
On the field, it was a very impressive version of Krunal that showed up. When he walked in to bat after India had lost the toss, the scoreboard read 205 for 5 after 40.3 overs, Hardik having just been dismissed. Krunal, in collaboration with KL Rahul, lifted India to 317 from there, scoring 58* in 31 balls with seven fours and two sixes. That was enough to give India a 66-run win, with Krunal chipping in later with 1 for 59 from his ten overs, dismissing Sam Curran.