After turbulent IPL season, can Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya reset for T20 World Cup? | Crickit

After turbulent IPL season, can Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya reset for T20 World Cup?

By, Mumbai
May 18, 2024 08:52 PM IST

Hardik’s all-round returns were poor as MI captain while Rohit, stripped of the post, didn’t show the intent other openers in IPL 2024 did

“Not everything goes your way,” Rohit Sharma was philosophical recently on his losing IPL captaincy with Mumbai Indians while leading India’s T20 side. But between Rohit being captain, not leading, and again as captain, the world around him has changed. The franchise he had led to five titles finished IPL 2024 at the bottom of the league table. His successor as MI captain Hardik Pandya was widely heckled by the home crowd that was unhappy with Rohit’s removal as captain. And both failed to deliver inspirational performances.

Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya and his teammate Rohit Sharma during the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket match(PTI)
Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya and his teammate Rohit Sharma during the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket match(PTI)

That’s how much damage a leadership transition gone wrong can do. It took MI head coach Mark Boucher until the end of their disastrous campaign to admit that it led to problems. “There were a lot of things happening, a lot of moving parts this season, which wasn’t great to be a part of at certain times. There are certain things that did affect individuals, which ultimately did affect the team,” he told reporters on Friday after signing off the season with a loss against Lucknow Super Giants.

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The IPL careers of Rohit and Hardik have been intertwined with MI. Only briefly have they played for another franchise – Rohit’s first three IPL seasons were with Deccan Chargers before joining MI in 2011. He became MI skipper in 2013, leading them to five IPL titles. Pandya was with MI from 2015 to 2021 and part of four titles. He then captained Gujarat Titans to victory on their debut in 2022. Though both tasted success elsewhere, their legacy will be defined by what they achieved for MI, Rohit as leader and Hardik as player, yet.

Despite the poor results this season, Boucher said “Hardik is the guy the franchise would like to take MI forward”. At 37, with a mega auction coming up, who knows if Rohit has played his last match for MI.

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Now, the onus is on Rohit and Hardik – India’s captain and vice-captain at next month’s T20 World Cup in USA-West Indies to ensure that the disquiet at MI is not carried into the India dressing room. The concern is also whether the two can lift their own performances.

On the surface, Rohit had a successful season with the bat. He delivered his highest season strike rate (150). But this year, there are 23 other batters who have scored faster than him in his area of work, the powerplay. The last time Rohit scored more than this season’s 417 runs was in 2016. It’s more a measure of how much his batting has stagnated in IPL.

Boucher described Rohit’s IPL 2024 as a season of two halves. In the first six matches, he scored 261 runs at a strike rate of 167. In the last eight matches, his remaining runs came at a strike rate of 127, the phase somewhat resurrected by a 38-ball 66 against LSG on Friday. “If you ask Ro, he would probably say it was an average season,” said Boucher.

Rohit admitted “he did not live up to his standard”, in comments on Jio Cinema.

Hardik’s MI captaincy remained under constant scrutiny. The bigger disappointment though was his all-round showing. Again, plain numbers – 216 runs at a strike rate of 143 and 11 wickets at an economy of 10.75 – don’t give an accurate picture. The zip in Hardik’s bowling was missing all through. In a season that allowed two bouncers per over, Hardik, at his best well-suited to play the middle-overs enforcer, could not check the batters.

Between last year’s ODI World Cup that ended pre-maturely for Hardik due to an ankle injury and the approaching T20 World Cup, the IPL overs are all that he has bowled.

A bit more concerning is the missing robustness in Hardik’s power-hitting. Boucher acknowledged what many experts have felt. The MI captain’s set-up changed during his role as a batting anchor for GT and it’s taking him time to regain that finishing touch.

“When Hardik was playing for MI (before) he was a finisher. Then he went to Titans where he was batting in a completely different scenario (higher in the order). He had to make slight technical adjustments to face the newer ball and the lengths,” Boucher said.

“Throughout the season, it was work in progress trying to get it back to being the finisher (again). He is evolving as a cricketer. Once he gets that hitting power back...I don’t think the power is gone. Just getting used to that position again and the different game scenarios, he will be a rounded player able to play both games.”

With a fortnight to go before India kick-off their World Cup campaign, and with only one warm-up match on June 1 left before that, it has to be a quick turnaround.

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