IPL 2024: Hardik Pandya’s Luis Figo moment | Crickit
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IPL 2024: Hardik Pandya’s Luis Figo moment

Mar 25, 2024 03:53 PM IST

In sports, hell hath no fury like a treasoned fan base, but players are professionals and excessive trolling is uncalled for

Many years ago Luis Figo committed the cardinal sin of leaving Barcelona for rival gang Real Madrid. When Figo next played at Camp Nou, Barca’s storied cauldron, fans threw a pig’s head at the Portuguese midfielder as he went to the corner for a flag-kick. (Maybe Figo should think of a movie called ‘Bend It Like Bacon’).

Hardik Pandya left Gujarat Titans to rejoin Mumbai Indians.(AP)
Hardik Pandya left Gujarat Titans to rejoin Mumbai Indians.(AP)

On Sunday, Hardik Pandya had a Figo moment. The ex-captain of Gujarat Titans returned to his former home ground, Ahmedabad, in Mumbai Indians colours. Over the next few hours, fans booed Pandya and chanted the name of Rohit Sharma, who Pandya unceremoniously replaced at Mumbai.

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In the eyes of many, Pandya committed double treason – leaving Gujarat and showing the effrontery of asking for Mumbai captaincy despite Sharma’s contribution to the franchise (MI won five titles under Sharma).

MI coach Mark Boucher’s statement a few days back that only cricketing reasons were responsible for the change at the top hasn’t found agreement in all quarters. “So many things wrong with this,” Sharma’s wife Ritika said on Instagram in response to Boucher’s explanation.

On Sunday, Pandya could have proven a point had he performed and his side won. But Mumbai Indians lost steam in a makeable chase, and ‘Et tu Hardikbhai’ flopped with bat and ball.

Pandya also made a couple of tactical decisions which experts like Irfan Pathan felt were blunders, such as bowling himself before Jasprit Bumrah, and promoting Tim David in the batting when he was expected to go in. Pathan in fact felt Pandya was avoiding facing Gujarat’s wily leg-spinner Rashid Khan.

An animated chat between Sharma and Pandya after the game added to the palace intrigue.

Pandya is not one to fly below the radar on the field or off but when that is the case you often set yourself up to be cut down to size. A flashy lifestyle with earrings and Patek Philippe watches, an in-your-face manner and a certain infamous interview have led to Pandya being branded as arrogant and crass. (In Pandya’s defence, he was a bachelor at the time of the interview). The transfer to MI brought on accusations of mercenary attitude and disrespect to a senior, even though there is not a single IPL player or official who does not have money on their minds.

While some of the criticism against Pandya is understandable, the reactions can’t devolve into a hateful witch hunt. The IPL has just started, and MI can bounce back. Also, players are professionals and change teams all the time. Pandya was with Mumbai before he joined Gujarat. The passing of the baton could have been handled better, but Pandya is 30 and Sharma 37, and age is a factor when teams plan succession. Besides, he is a fine allrounder who was Gujarat’s highest scorer (487 runs) when they won the IPL 2022 title. In 2019, Pandya was chief contributor to MI’s victorious campaign with 402 runs and 14 wickets. He is undeserving of excessive trolling, especially the kind based on caste or skin colour.

For now though, Pandya finds himself alone, on the couch of Koffee With Myself.

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