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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Double trouble

Double trouble

Updated on: 07 April,2024 06:04 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

Tonight’s Mumbai Indians Vs Delhi Capitals game once again throws up critical questions: Can Hardik Pandya duck the public humiliation; will Rohit Sharma call for an end to the booing; can the captain turn the tables by improving his team’s start? Disappointments and egos aside, franchise cricket’s die-hard loyalty is put to test

Double trouble

Illustration/Uday Mohite

The proverbial dust from booing storm that swept Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium even before a ball was bowled in the Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals IPL 17 tie on April 1 has yet to settle.

Chances are that it will reappear in today’s match up between the hosts and Delhi Capitals at Churchgate.

Can Hardik Pandya, the recipient of those jeers, duck it? More importantly, can the public humiliation of an IPL-winning captain (Gujarat Titans won in 2022) stop? These are the questions which cricket lovers want affirmation for.

The disappointment of certain Mumbai Indians fans over Rohit Sharma being replaced as captain by a returning Pandya is understandable, but their April 1 highly-audible reactions cannot be condoned. To them, the team think-tank’s eye on future and younger leadership need notwithstanding, is blatantly unfair on a multi-format successful player like Rohit.

International cricket is filled with ironies and the shortest form of the game isn’t spared in this regard. A telling one is the fact that though the IPL is 17 editions old and has provided a platform for countless Indian players to stamp their class on the international scene, India have yet to win a T20 World Cup during this time. The inaugural T20 World Cup (called ICC World T20 then) was clinched by Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co. before the Lalit Modi-fuelled glitzy event was born in 2008.

The irony of Rohit (who has lifted the IPL trophy on five occasions) being replaced by Pandya, who has captained a side to victory once, sticks out sorely for die-hard fans of the blue brigade. Probably, the bigger oddity is that Rohit, the India captain across all formats, is playing under Hardik, who is currently not even a regular in the Indian team through his injury worries.

This is no trivia-based irony which die-hard fans can be humoured by. Franchise cricket breeds fan loyalty especially for an enduring team like Mumbai Indians.
The team bosses have made some excellent decisions over the years by picking the right players and backing cricketers of promise. The decision to make Rohit captain in 2013 was a master stroke in itself. But the call to handover charge to Hardik towards the end of last year appeared more faulty after BCCI Secretary Jay Shah announced Rohit as captain of India for June’s T20 World Cup, in February.

The backlash has come like a tsunami and it will take some extraordinary moves to check the gushing of emotions. However stung Rohit is, he’ll not only have to accept the situation and perform in the remainder of the tournament, but he’ll have to talk as well—make an elaborate statement which shouldn’t sound as lip service, or face the media. He won’t be expected to say that Hardik can’t be blamed for switching over and getting the captaincy of his franchise, but he surely can call for an end to the booing. If Virat Kohli can do it during a World Cup (2019) for a then troubled rival Steven Smith post sandpapergate, Rohit can for a teammate and spell this out loud to a larger audience even though a few videos have surfaced on social media of him urging the crowd not to get after Pandya.

As a veteran cricketer, Rohit has experienced highs and lows and will have to treat this wound.

He can help his much-loved IPL team (apart from MI, he has only played for Deccan Chargers) by taking this on the chin and greatly improving on his start (69 runs in three games) to the tournament.

Silence will not help this situation defuse.

Undoubtedly, he and Hardik can coexist. If at all there are differences between both these stars, it’s not something that hasn’t happened in other teams. The best of sides have had players with strained relations.

Twenty-five years ago, the late Shane Warne got one of the biggest shocks in his cricket career when his Australia captain Steve Waugh decided to go into the series-deciding April 3-7, 1999 fourth Test against West Indies at Antigua, without Warne. Fellow leggie Stuart MacGill was picked instead of the greatest spinner of all time. Waugh’s Test victory objective was achieved. The Sir Frank Worrell Trophy was retained through a 2-2 result but Australia’s two Ws didn’t send Christmas cards to each other.

Yet, on June 20, 1999, Warne was celebrating with Waugh on the Lord’s balcony after being the most successful bowler in the final, where Australia claimed their second World Cup win.

In India’s troubled home series of 1984-85, Kapil was dropped for playing a rash stroke in India’s loss to England in the Delhi Test. Captain Sunil Gavaskar has insisted that a selector proposed to drop his star all-rounder, but the media was unstoppable. Kapil not being in the team for the next Test at Kolkata provided the media more ink to pen Gavaskar v Kapil stories. In a few months, both these icons celebrated India’s 1985 World Championship of Cricket win in Melbourne; England being one of the teams they beat en route tournament glory.

In the current controversy, Hardik also has some work to do. He has to bring out the humble side in him, show that to the people who believe he is cocky while he goes about getting Mumbai Indians’s IPL campaign back on track.

It’s impractical to believe things will be silky smooth with Rohit and Pandya even after the awaited statement. But who can rule out the strong possibility of them performing together?

‘No one is bigger than the game’ is as cliched as ‘cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties.’ That said, it’s time to put the former into action despite it being an easier said-than-done case.

The number of T20 titles Rohit Sharma has led Mumbai Indians to victory in (5 IPLs and 1 Champions League crown)

‘With reports about possible tussle in MI camp, Rohit would want to leave MI’

Former Mumbai Ranji Trophy captain Shishir Hattangadi, cricket fan Merrill Rosario and sports equipment dealer Punit Gulati, offer their take on the controversy

Shishir Hattangadi, Merrill Rosario and Punit GulatiShishir Hattangadi, Merrill Rosario and Punit Gulati

Should MI have waited to take a call on the captaincy after IPL 2024?
Hattangadi: A franchise is an asset of the owners. They take the call on who stays and leads. They could have planned the leadership baton to be passed on with better communication. 

Rosario: The fact that MI got Hardik back from GT means they wanted a change in captaincy. It does not make sense in getting a captain who’s been a winner and runner-up in the previous two seasons and not make him captain.

Gulati: I believe Rohit is surely a better captain than Hardik. He is captain of the Indian team and has proved himself. The way he was replaced as captain by the MI management was not in good taste.

Would it have been fine for Hardik to play under Rohit after being the 2022 IPL-winning captain?
Hattangadi: Yes of course, since Rohit is the India captain. MI needed Hardik more for his all-round skills than his leadership.

Rosario: It all depends on Hardik’s attitude. We have seen IPL-winning captains playing under different leadership, be it MS Dhoni under Jadeja/Ruturaj or Smith. I feel Hardik would not have left GT (being his home state too) if he was not offered the captaincy.

Gulati: Hardik is a young player and if he does not have an attitude problem, he should hand over the captaincy back to Rohit.

Will Rohit Sharma play for MI next year?
Hattangadi: It all depends on MI’s performance. If they keep losing, they may ask Rohit to take over next year.

Rosario: With the possibility of a mega auction next year and all that is being reported about a possible tussle in the MI camp, I feel that Rohit would want to leave MI.

Gulati: I am sure that Rohit will play two more seasons at least.

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