Kolkata: There were several sub-plots in India’s emphatic win in the first of their three-match ODI series against England on Tuesday - but none was more poignant than the frame where the Pandya brothers hugged each other at the innings break. Needless to add, elder brother Krunal’s breaking down after dedicating his explosive innings on ODI debut to his late dad went viral.
“Papa, with every ball you were always on my mind and in my heart. Tears rolled down my face as I felt your presence with me,” Krunal wrote on Twitter. ‘‘Thank you for being my strength, for being the biggest support I’ve had. I hope I made you proud. This is for you Papa, everything we do is for you Papa,” wrote the spinning allrounder, whose international debut in One-day Internationals came a good five years after his younger, and arguably more talented, younger brother. Dad Himanshu Pandya, a chronic heart patient, passed away after a heart attack only in mid-January.
Sport - which revels on emotions and adrenaline rush - is no stranger to such scenes. The remarkable part, however, is about the journey of the Pandya brothers - for whom cricket was once an escape route from poverty and the role their father Himanshu played in keeping their dreams alive against all odds in the dusty lanes of Surat and Vadodara in Gujarat.
The struggle got tougher for them when their father, who used to do odd jobs to meet the expenses for his sons’ training, suffered multiple heart attacks. The cricketer brothers had, by default, become breadwinners of the family - playing in small towns to earn some extra bucks and even saw times when they had to spend the entire day at the grounds with a single meal of noodles. It was during this phase only that the Pandyas started to play in multiple local tournaments to earn some extra bucks on the side.
In an interview in 2017, Hardik recalled how he and his brother would often ask themselves: “Why us? Why are we the only ones having problems for 2-3 years? What have we done to be in this situation?”
Lady luck smiled on them when during a talent-hunt programme launched by IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, the scouts bumped into the raw talent of the Pandya brothers as well as Jaspreet Bumrah - one of the elite fast bowlers in the world now - in their home state Gujarat.
The quality of life started to improve dramatically with their call-up in the IPL. While Hardik’s skillsets as a medium pace bowling allrounder earned him a call-up to the national set-up much earlier, Krunal was made to wait much longer. The elder brother is more of a streetsmart cricketer who bowls his fastish left-arm spin and can give the blog a real good slog in the death overs - as the England bowlers would now testify.
There are no dearth of stories of talented siblings in the history of cricket - be it the legendary Chappells, Waughs or in recent times the Marsh brothers. The Pandyas, of course, are a different story - it’s like that of two ugly ducklings who carved out their own destiny within their own limitations.
No wonder, the bond is so strong. Hardik had articulated it well a few years back: ‘‘Everything in my life is related to him. We have common friends; in fact, all of his (Krunal’s) friends have become my friends. ... I am hard to manage, plenty of people know that. And, my brother takes care of me. If I do something wrong, he (Krunal) will correct me. We have a wonderful relationship because we tell each other what is right and what is wrong. Even when one of us isn’t playing, we support each other.’’
If Bollywood scriptwriters are reading this, they may have a biopic on their hands.