Pandya under fire from Rohit fans

18 days ago
Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya has been facing the wrath of jeering fans in the IPL this season, with the Mumbai Indians struggling since he took charge from the much-loved Rohit Sharma.

Five-time winners Mumbai replaced Rohit, who leads India in all formats, as captain before the IPL season started last month after the India all-rounder Pandya returned from Gujarat.

The homecoming has been tough for Pandya, who has been booed incessantly as his side slumped to three consecutive defeats, the latest at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Monday.

In contrast, the Chennai Super Kings have reported a “seamless transition” of leadership after their old warhorse MS Dhoni handed over the captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad on the eve of the IPL’s 17th edition.

Pandya’s reception could not have been more different.

After being traded from Gujarat back to Mumbai for $1.8-million, his immediate elevation as captain went down badly with the legions of Rohit fans.

Rohit (36) remains an icon in Mumbai after leading the team to five IPL titles since taking over from Australia’s Ricky Ponting in 2013.

Mumbai’s winless record with Pandya in charge this season has done nothing to win over the fans in the cricket-mad country.

Pandya began with a loss at Ahmedabad, home of the Gujarat Titans, who won the title in their inaugural season in 2022 under the Indian all-rounder’s dynamic leadership.

The 30-year-old had another forgettable evening on Monday against the Rajasthan Royals, even being jeered at the toss by home fans, prompting presenter Sanjay Manjrekar to call on them to “behave”.

But the crowd kept up their hostility towards Pandya throughout, with Rohit gesturing to the fans to stop at one point.

Pandya, who was once regarded as a possible successor to the ageing Rohit to captain India’s T20 team, admitted it was a “tough night”.

The tattooed star with his love for watches is still searching for a first win in charge at Mumbai, who are rooted to the foot of the 10-team table.

In their previous match, Mumbai’s bowlers conceded a league record 277 to the Sunrisers Hyderabad as fans chanted Rohit’s name throughout.

Veteran commentator Harsha Bhogle drew a comparison with football.

“What is happening with the IPL is that the ‘clannishness’ has grown,” Bhogle told Indian website Cricbuzz. “The more the rivalries are built up, the more people have something in it.”

Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who plays for Rajasthan, said the fans needed to cool down.

“People should remember which country these players represent – it’s our country,” Ashwin said on his YouTube channel. “Fan wars should never take such an ugly route.”

He said IPL fans should look at how other countries behave.

“Have you seen, for instance, Joe Root and Zak Crawley fans have a fight?” he asked.

“Or Joe Root and Jos Buttler fans fight? It’s crazy. Do you see Steven Smith fans fighting with Pat Cummins fans in Australia?”

But in Chennai, the scenario is very different – with 42-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Dhoni guiding new captain Gaikwad from behind the stumps.

Dhoni led the team to a record-equalling fifth title last year and has now eased into the role of mentor and player.

The tournament holders won their opening two matches, before going down to the Delhi Capitals, and Gaikwad has been lauded for his understated leadership.

“To transition into the job is not easy, but he’s done it seamlessly,” Chennai head coach Stephen Fleming said. “We’re using MS as well, still as part of the decision-making.”

© Agence France-Presse

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