Hardik Pandya doesn’t deserve retribution

During my stay in the USA, residing with my younger daughter, I found myself drawn more towards watching the Indian Premier League (IPL), as my son-in-law and daughter are ardent fans of the tournament.

Their knowledge about the participating players far surpasses mine. However, as the excitement grew in the build-up to Ball One, I couldn’t help but notice the perplexing behaviour of the Mumbai crowd. I’m referring to their unwarranted booing directed at Hardik Pandya.

On All Fools Day, I found myself pondering over whom they are attempting to deceive, or if they have been misled by the decision of the Mumbai Indians owner to appoint Hardik as captain, thereby replacing the immensely successful Rohit Sharma.

Rohit, a Team India captain, having won a tough Test match series against England recently (don’t let the 4-1 margin lead you to thinking it was a walk in the park), has been instrumental in bringing glory to Mumbai Indians, leading the team triumphantly and contributing significantly to the construction of the Mumbai Indians brand.

One would expect that such a pivotal decision as changing the captain would have been thoroughly deliberated upon by the owners in consultation with the professionally employed think tank of the Mumbai Indians. However, it appears that the professionals involved may have simply gone with the flow to appease the owners, rather than having the courage to provide them candid and forthright assessments. 

As professionals, it is imperative to offer honest analysis of situations, especially when considering the replacement of a captain as accomplished as Rohit. It’s crucial to recognise the invaluable contributions of players like him who not only excel on the field but also serve as ambassadors for the team, bolstering its brand and fostering a dedicated fan base who invest their time and resources in supporting the team.

The backlash faced by Hardik from the crowd isn’t solely directed at him but indirectly implicates those responsible for his appointment as captain. The top management of the team was undoubtedly aware of the ramifications of their decision, underscoring the repercussions of surrounding oneself with individuals who prioritise pleasing superiors over providing comprehensive and objective insights, regardless of the consequences.

My sympathy extends to both Hardik and Rohit, as they bear no fault for the unnecessary division created by the negative reactions of the crowd. Such behaviour detracts from the enjoyment of genuine cricket enthusiasts, who attend matches in anticipation of witnessing exhilarating contests between bat and ball.

If, indeed, Hardik’s elevation to captaincy depended upon conditions unrelated to his cricketing prowess, such as his transfer from the Gujarat Titans to Mumbai Indians, it stands as a regrettable transaction. Being subjected to trolling by fans of two teams reflects poorly on the decision-making process and highlights the adverse outcomes of prioritising factors beyond cricketing merit.

I greatly admire Hardik’s attitude, often citing it as a model for the players I mentor. His resilience and determination exemplify qualities that transcend mere talent, demonstrating that success in cricket is achievable through sheer grit and perseverance.

Look at the way he batted on Monday night when his team were in a crisis. He not only soaked in the pressure of his team reeling at 20-4 which included a first-ball duck from the great Rohit but he was also able to put behind the booing he was subjected to when he walked out for the toss with rival skipper Sanju Samson. 

Hardik is tough as nails. Yes, his team didn’t end up opening their account in this edition of the IPL and are winless after three games, but that is the nature of the game. 

For those who vehemently oppose Hardik’s leadership and engage in booing and trolling, perhaps the most effective course of action would be to abstain from attending Mumbai Indians matches altogether, thereby sending out a clear message to the team management. Such a unified stance would likely resonate more profoundly than merely filling the stadium with dissenting voices. It would ultimately prompt greater introspection within the Mumbai Indians camp.

1983 World Cup-winning swing bowler Balvinder Singh Sandhu is now a reputed coach
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The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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