It’s absurd to abuse Hardik Pandya for being Mumbai Indians captain and diabolical to call him names | Ipl News

Rohit Sharma (left) and Hardik Pandya in conversation during Mumbai Indians match against Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

This IPL season has seen the most venomous targeting of a player ever. And this time, it has gone way beyond the usual online trolling.

Hardik Pandya, following his switch from Gujarat Titans to Mumbai Indians, got hysterically booed all through his team’s first outing in Ahmedabad, his home venue for the previous two seasons. The anger was apparently because of Gujarat’s sense of betrayal. The accusation was mounted on weak legs. It fell flat pretty quickly.

In the very next game, in Hyderabad this time, the screeching jeers from the stands didn’t stop. Visuals also emerged of a shower of shoes hitting a giant screen on which a smiling Hardik spoke after MI’s second successive loss. This Monday, MI play their first home game of the season. And there are those who believe that the Wankhede loyalists, aka fans of previous captain Rohit Sharma, too might not instantly warm up to the new skipper.

Worryingly, Hardik, in the first two games, wasn’t subjected to the usual theatrical harmless hooting and hollering that one hears at sporting venues around the world. Many match-day stadium clips on social media, featuring the new Mumbai captain, have chants of ‘Chhapri’ – the casteist slur used to label those with unconventional hairstyles as uncool and uncultured. It is also a derogatory discrimination of the marginalised.

Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya walks back after getting out against Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran) Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya walks back after getting out against Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

The diligent boy from the other side of the track, who reached lofty heights without push or pull, was being collectively pulled down by those who once applauded him. This wasn’t cricket, it went beyond the Rohit-Hardik transition drama. Fans have booed many, but here they were selectively diabolical in their name-calling of Hardik.

Festive offer

So, what had Hardik done to deserve this? It wasn’t that he had managed some overnight bloodless coup to overthrow Rohit. Nor did he manipulate the dressing room to stake his claim on the Mumbai throne.

Prima facie, it’s just about him agreeing to a massive pay hike, a move back to the team that spotted him, and lead IPL’s most prominent franchise. If it was right to publicly shame someone for being aspirational and pursuing higher professional goals, the nation’s young need to recalibrate their own ambitions.

Fans forget that Hardik has been India skipper and also won an IPL title in his debut season as captain. And it was MI that came calling and told him that they believed in him. Saying no would have been timid. Players of Hardik’s calibre look for tough assignments to test themselves. He took the challenge and also knew it wouldn’t be easy. It has never been.

Tough childhood

Growing up, Hardik would never leave his mother’s side, more so when the family, with modest means, would occasionally eat out at a dhaba. On Gaurav Kapoor’s YouTube show Breakfast with Champions, Hardik had relived his childhood trauma. Typically, he would keep it light, frame it as a joke. “I had cut my hair very short. I never used to go to dhabas to eat without my mother because people used to think I worked there as a waiter. It has happened many times. I would go to wash my hands and someone would ask me to pick their plates…” he recalled.

That was the time in Hardik’s life when his father had shifted to a new city, did odd jobs and coaxed coaches to give his underweight, under-confident son a chance to show his skills. With elder brother Krunal by his side, while surviving on just a Maggi meal all day at times, the two honed their skills under the unforgiving Baroda sun.

Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya and Gujarat Titans' captain Shubman Gill during the toss for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 T20 cricket match between Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans, at Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya and Gujarat Titans’ captain Shubman Gill during the toss for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 T20 cricket match between Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans, at Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad. (PTI)

Success would follow them, they would become Baroda’s famous Pandya Brothers. They had a big role to play in MI winning IPL titles. The shy boy, the mother’s pet, would grow in confidence. He would play Tests, and be compared to Kapil Dev.

On a high, he wasn’t bothered when the world judged him for his fashion taste. It seems that hasn’t changed. In the first two games this season, despite the outside noise, he didn’t snap. He has gone about his business with a smile on his face. Even that has infuriated some fans. “How can he smile when the team is losing?” they ask.

Hardik has a tough act to follow. Being MI captain has its perks and privileges, but to be Rohit’s successor, at this moment in time, comes with impediments and inconveniences. Probably at the peak of his popularity as India captain, Rohit, without a captain’s arm-band on the field, is seen by fans as an under-utilised asset on the field.

Five IPL titles, charming the nation by leading from the front in a World Cup at home last year, shepherding a young Test team to a hard-fought Test series win against England – Rohit’s body of work is intimidating. His all-format credentials are impossible to match for anyone in Indian cricket at present; least of all Hardik, a captain still learning the ropes.

Unavailable for India

There are other issues too. Hardik no longer plays Tests and his injury-prone body didn’t allow him to be India’s Man Friday in the 50-over World Cup. Currently, his stock isn’t zooming.

And that’s the reason there will always be that one big question that will continue to hang over the field every time MI play this season: Is the most deserving man leading the side? No, he isn’t – and this could turn into a loud stadium chant if defeats continue to pile for MI.

Sporting transfer sagas that divide opinions can turn ugly. The well-received recent Netflix documentary, The Figo Affair, is about the Portuguese legend’s seismic shift from Barcelona to bitter rivals Real Madrid. That was the time all hell had broken loose. Figo was called names, his plight was worse than Hardik’s. At Nou Camp, during an El Clasico, they threw a pig’s head at him. This was in 2000, football leagues would mature with time. Bigger transfers have happened, but no pig has been killed by those disagreeing.

IPL is still very young. The fans still take transfers as a personal rejection. Those following the national team don’t understand fickle contractual loyalties. With time, they too will be far more understanding. They will realise that expressing displeasure over the choice of a captain is normal but making it personal isn’t.

So before abusing Hardik, try to understand that he can’t be faulted for being MI captain. He is a player with a serious injury record. All he is doing is working towards the optimum monetisation of specific skill-sets during what could potentially be a short sporting career. Can he be castigated for securing a comfortable future for himself? Hardik got an offer that every cricketer in the world dreams of. His only fault, he took it with both hands.

Please send feedback to

s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’,
fbq(‘init’, ‘444470064056909’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *