Mumbai Indians, and the brothers' conundrum


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When Krunal Pandya was joined by Hardik Pandya at the crease in the 18th over during Mumbai Indians' match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 18, it was the first instance of a partnership in the Indian Premier League (IPL) involving brothers. However, that association lasted for only 10 deliveries, for 12 runs, and the only other time that Pandya brothers found themselves at the crease together - against Kings XI Punjab - it was for the last ball of that innings and the stand yielded zero runs.

The game against Hyderabad was only Krunal's second IPL appearance and continuing from where he left off in his debut match against Gujarat Lions - in which he scored a 20* off 11 - the older Pandya went on to register an unbeaten 49 off 28 deliveries for his highest score in the IPL. His services with the bat weren't required against Royal Challengers Bangalore while came to the crease only as late as the last ball of the innings against Punjab, and was at the non-striker's end. In between those two games, he received a promotion to No. 4 against Delhi Daredevils and Krunal shined again, scoring a 17-ball 36 before he was run out.

In four innings with the bat so far, Krunal has scored 105 runs, averages 105 because of three not-outs with a strike-rate of 187.5. In stark contrast to his brother, Hardik, who has played all seven games so far, has only managed 30 runs, averages six with two not-outs while his highest score in this edition is only 9. Hardik batted at the No. 3 position for three matches in a row and the outcome were scores of 9, 9 and 2 against Pune, Kolkata and Gujarat respectively. At No. 7 against Hyderabad, Hardik could only manage 2, scored 2 not-out against Bangalore, registered the same score against Delhi, while he scored a 4 against Punjab before falling off the last ball.

With the ball too there has been a vast difference between the performance of the Pandya brothers so far. Krunal has done a tidy job, being the only Mumbai Indians bowler (who has played more than one game in this edition) with an economy rate of less than 7. Among his three wickets include the prized scalps of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, which helped Mumbai restrict the power-packed Bangalore batting. On the other hand, Hardik has struggled to make an impact with the ball - an economy of 9.75 and a bowling average of 52 bear testimony to that.

Having juggled with the likes of Vinay Kumar, Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith for the first two games, Mumbai were able to neutralise their combination problem with the inclusion of Krunal, who seems to be doing justice to his Rs. two crore price tag. Meanwhile, Hardik's struggles have given Mumbai some headaches and although they have persisted with him, he may well be on some borrowed time.

Hardik had a brilliant Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament at the start of 2016, in which he was the leading run-getter with 377 runs in 10 innings for Baroda. Such was the effect of his performance that he got a call-up to the Indian T20 squad, and played as many as 16 Twenty20 Internationals for India. Although his appearances with the bat were limited, he did display his hard-hitting abilities on a few occasions while with the ball, some of his contributions came in match-winning causes for India. However, ever since bowling that costly no-ball which gave Lendl Simmons a reprieve and led to India's exit in the semifinal of World T20 2016, Hardik's confidence seems to have deserted him.

In Hardik's defence, his IPL 2015 exploits, especially in the latter stages of the tournament may have outweighed his current form, going by Mumbai Indians' willingness to persist with him. His three sixes to help Mumbai pull off a victory from a near-impossible situation against Chennai Super Kings brought him into the spotlight and an important 61 in a do-or-die clash against Kolkata was one of the chief reasons for the team to even get through to the play-offs.

Mumbai's confidence in Hardik may stem from the fact that the 22-year-old can transform into a match-winner and come up with a performance that's a bolt out of the blue. But Hardik seems to be a pale shadow of the exuberant youngster in 2015 that burst onto the scene and made the stage his own.

It's been a wait for seven matches now, and how long the defending champions are willing to be patient remains to be seen. But what comes as a relief is that the 25-year-old Krunal is somewhat making up for his younger brother's lapses and giving the team the faith that, when there is a pressure situation, they do have a Pandya to fall back on.

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