Krunal Pandya is part of a unique list.
Over the last three IPL seasons, he's one of only five players to have scored over 500 runs and taken 25 wickets. Everyone else on that list are established international cricketers, but Krunal has had to wait long for a chance in the India side. That chance has come now for the 27-year-old from Baroda, but it comes in a slightly bittersweet fashion - he comes into the squad as brother and fellow allrounder Hardik Pandya is out injured.
So what took Krunal's addition to the Indian set-up so long? He's been one of the most consistent allrounders going around in white-ball cricket, and yet he was ignored ever since a successful IPL debut in 2016. He's had to wait for three years, while seeing other one-season wonders like Deepak Chahar and Washington Sundar jump the queue for an international cap.
In the IPL, Krunal has played the role of finisher with the bat and container with the ball, and has provided many a match-winning performance. In Mumbai's title-winning 2017 campaign, his continued success forced the team to relegate Harbhajan Singh to second-choice spinner. It was a follow-up to Krunal's stint with Baroda - the side reached the semi-finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy that year, when he scored 366 runs at an average of almost 46.
Krunal is what one calls a "clutch" player. He's rescued Mumbai Indians numerous times when their backs were against the wall - like his 3 for 14 against Gujarat Lions in a tied contest that Mumbai won via a Super Over, or his Man-of-the-Match performance in the IPL 2017 final which Mumbai won by a solitary run.
He also possesses the ability to temper his batting according to requirements and go through the gears: he strikes at 138 in the Powerplay overs, 151 in the middle ten and over 178 in the final five. Rarely does he seem to get bogged down by pressure and often does he seem to be able to steer the game's narrative the way he wants. This showed in the IPL 2017 final as well, where Krunal scored at under a run-a-ball while rescuing his team from a collapse, eventually hitting a barrage of boundaries in the back end to finish with a strike rate of 123 on a day when the average rate was only 107.
T20 cricket is the best format for a bits-and-pieces player, but Krunal is far from that. He's so skilful with the ball, that it's difficult to decide whether he's a bowling or batting allrounder. His bowling Smart Strike Rate* for IPL 2018, as a fingerspinner who bowls most of his overs in dewy conditions, was a miserly 6.14, and his batting Smart Strike Rate was 163.67.
Now, against West Indies, after his long wait, Krunal finally has the chance to lay solid claim to India's allrounder slot. With the 2020 World T20 approaching, he potentially offers India the same services he offers Mumbai Indians: someone who bowls a few overs with the ability to bat in multiple gears.
He's proven that he can succeed under pressure, and has developed into a reliable finisher with the bat. With MS Dhoni absent and a young batting line-up for the West Indies T20Is, Krunal could be just what the team needs in the middle order. And, of course, he's working under his captain at Mumbai Indians, Rohit Sharma, and so he will be comfortable in the knowledge that here's a man who understands his skills and is best positioned to make the most of what the newcomer can offer.
There's a downside to all this: Krunal's injury issues. Even before that breakthrough IPL 2016 season, Krunal was forced to have surgery to fix a shoulder tear. When IPL 2017 was starting, Krunal was recovering from a surgery on his quadriceps. Add those to Krunal's very regular list of "niggles" that have forced him to skip large parts of the Indian domestic season, and India's decision to not consider him for so long makes some sense. But here's his chance to enjoy a grand moment in the sun, and, perhaps, leave the selectors with some thinking to do.
*Smart Stats is ESPNcricinfo's new method to evaluate numbers in T20 cricket. More on it here.