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The epic Hardik Pandya & Mumbai Indians chronicle: The world divides in two halves

Hardik Pandya joined MI as the new captain

It was expected in Ahmedabad, but at the iconic Wankhede? Once Hardik Pandya’s first assignment in IPL 2024 as the Mumbai Indians (MI) captain was confirmed in a trip to the den of his former team, Gujrat Titans, many anticipated the potential outcome. But when was the last time a home captain was booed at the toss?

One feel for Hardik Pandya and what he has to go through in the last couple of weeks or so. At his first toss of the season, the crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium didn’t show any mercy towards their former captain, who led the Titans to their maiden IPL trophy on the very first season.

The ravaged relation between Hardik Pandya and the fired-up crowd

There were thousands of placards, and malicious voices towards Pandya. Suddenly the fortress for the past two years became his cauldron of fire, defiant and always prepared to barbeque him at any poor decision or mistake.

Hardik Pandya gets booed by fans.
©- Sports Tak/ Twitter

Whenever he was near the boundary rope, or going back to the dressing room through the tunnel, the snorts were getting louder and higher. But for some unspecified reasons, the same went on in Hyderabad. The results where the hosts Sunrisers bashed the whole Mumbai Indians bowling group for the highest IPL total put more fuel in the already burning fire.

The social media groups were already fired up. And there were noises of the same kind of hustle and bustle at the Wankhede. It reached to a position where Sanjay Manjrekar, the toss representator had to use the word ‘behave’ towards the home fans. Crazy nah? Not really!

The funny thing was when Mumbai was struggling at 20/4 at the end of the fourth four, Hardik was welcomed in a negative vibe to the middle. But the moment he showed his skill and power to generate a few boundaries, suddenly the boos turned into applauses. It just explained the short memory of the fans.

There were also pictures of how a Hardik Pandya fan was beaten at the Ahmedabad. Why? Just because he was supporting someone towards whom the lion’s share of his own country are spreading hate. Did Hardik Pandya attempt a crime by coming back to Mumbai? Surely not!

You were looking for a dream job at an young age. A company hired you and made you a master of your work. Then you have to leave the association and joined a different group of people and did an excellent job in a more vital role. Now your old company who carried and believed in you at an early age looked to get your services back. They hired you back, gave you the exact role and who are not happy with it? The other employees of the company! What’s your fault in the whole incident then?

They could keep on bringing the football story. The old incidents of how the world’s best footballer at his peak, Luis Figo spoke about the mental tolls he faced while joining Real Madrid, leaving Barcelona. There were pictures of how the crowd threw bottles and caps at him while he was preparing for a corner shot.

But in a cash rich league where players have their full rights to decide where they want to stay, it’s quite tough to understand the reasons behind the hate towards Hardik Pandya. It’s better they hit the allow at the right point.

Hardik’s batting, bowling, captaincy have found its effect

If there were times when one could point a finger towards the behavior of the fans, then they got to ask questions on some of the tactical decisions Hadik Pandya has taken in his three games as the leader.

As a leader if you have Jasprit Bumrah in your side in any format of the game, no matter what the stats are saying, he got to take the new ball in the first over of the innings. Hardik held Bumrah till the fourth over against Gujrat Titans. And he straightaway drew the first blood with the dismissal of Wriddhiman Saha.

In the second Hyderabad run fest, Hardik again kept him waiting. By the time Bumrah came into the attack, the Sunrisers were already flying at 40/0 or so, and the game was dripping from their hands. For the class of Bumrah, he should be starting with the ball to put pressure on the batters from the word go. Why was he waiting?

Even in their third game where they were defending a low 125 total, the easiest decision in the field would be throwing the ball at your best bowler for early wickets. That was the only way they could even think of securing a victory, or make the game close. Bumrah came in the second over, a bit early in comparison though.

Hardik’s batting and bowling has also found his effect. Against Gujrat, when he walked into the middle, Mumbai needed 26 runs in the last two overs. With two inexperienced bowlers Spencer Johnson and Umesh Yadav, someone who is not known for his death bowling, Mumbai had a close chance. Hardik smashed 11 in four balls with a six and four each.

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Mumbai was targeting the 278-run chase in a brave fashion. But Hardik’s 24-run knock in 20 balls hurt them badly towards the end. The moment there were dot balls, and the asking rate was going high, it just went out of reach.  Hadik did a decent job in the 56-run fifth wicket stand against the Royals while they were struggling, but his 21-ball 34-run knock was just for the entertainment, and not enough to get them out of trouble.

Will they continue the same rude behavior when Hardik puts the India shirt on?

It was back in 2015 when because of a controversial run-out, the whole Wankhede crowd booed Virat Kohli. It was the same game where Kieron Pollard almost threw his bat at Mitchell Starc, while the crowd went after Kohli because they believed Rayudu’s run-out wasn’t right in laws and he should have been called back.

Kohli came into the press conference and questioned how the crowd could razz their own players, representing their country. The same goes with Hardik, and the probing whether they would still boo when he would play for the country, probably in the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024 in the USA and the Caribbean.

Along with Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik’s role in the team as the pace bowling all-rounder will be very vital. His three to four overs, and batting at number five may end up deciding whether India would break their 11-year ICC trophy drought. So far, Pandya hasn’t had a smooth IPL, but he needs to turn the table.

The only question is whether he would get the backing from the crowd. But does it matter? He been made the scapegoat of the whole incident, and it’s high time the fans understand where to draw the line. Don’t break your own player for whom you would cheer up in 10 months of the whole year.

That Mad Writer
Author: That Mad Writer

Someone who loves how Steve Smith from being Australia's future Shane Warne has become present Don Bradman, gets inspired by Anderson's longevity, gets awed with Kohli's drive and Southee's bowling action. Never gets excited with stats and records, and believes in instincts, and always questions spinners bowling with the new ball.

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