Rohit Sharma's first reaction on incessant Hardik Pandya booing, gestures Wankhede to 'calm down' during MI vs RR match | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Rohit Sharma's first reaction on incessant Hardik Pandya booing, gestures Wankhede to 'calm down' during MI vs RR match

Apr 02, 2024 08:20 AM IST

Rohit Sharma finally reacted to the boos directed at Hardik Pandya, using his 'calm down' gesture and urging the Wankhede crowd to put an end to it.

It's tough being Hardik Pandya. Now more than ever. His team is losing, and he sure isn't winning fans around the world. In fact, if anything, the clattering of boos towards the Mumbai Indians captain is only growing wherever he goes. After being jeered in Ahmedabad and then Hyderabad, it was Hardik's turn to face the heat from his very own – the Wankhede crowd – as MI played their first home match of the IPL 2024 against Rajasthan Royals. Hardik's homecoming on Monday was spoiled not just by a comprehensive defeat to the Royals but by experiencing the hostility of the very vocal crowd, who did not pass a single opportunity to let Pandya know what they felt about him.

Rohit Sharma's classy gesture for Hardik Pandya. (Screegrab)
Rohit Sharma's classy gesture for Hardik Pandya. (Screegrab)

While MI and Hardik are doing everything they can to win the crowd over, it's not happening. The franchise is yet to officially address the fan backlash towards Hardik, but towards the fag end of last night's game, Rohit Sharma did his little to get a hold of the situation. Fielding near the boundary with RR needed just another handful of runs, Rohit used his hands to use the 'calm down' gesture, and even though it did little to change the crowd's mind, it's a start nonetheless.

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Watch the clip below:

It was here that Hardik first began his IPL career in 2015 before evolving into one of India's greatest all-rounders of all time. Nine years later, no one, including Hardik himself would have imagined such a reception. Before play began, as Rohit was having a knock, the crowd was going wild, but just when Hardik appeared on the big screen for the toss, the cheers turned into voracious boos. This time it was so loud that Hardik, who till now had managed to keep his emotions under check, couldn't help but break into a sheepish smile. And then a little more when Sanjay Manjrekar, officiating the toss, instructed the crowd to 'Behave'.

If you thought the emotional roller-coaster ride ended there, hold that thought. It went on through the course of four hours. After RR opted to field, the ecstasy of watching MI batting soon turned into despair as the home team was reduced to 20/4. With three batters in Rohit, Naman Dhir and Dewald Brevis dismissed for golden ducks, out walked Hardik. For the people in attendance, it was the first time that the emotions for a team's performance had overpowered that for an individual. As Hardik strode out, there was still pin-drop silence, but once he began connecting, mixed reactions ensued.

When Hardik's strokeplay left the crowd confused

Hardik struck six boundaries during his 34-run knock off 21 balls and although each of those hits brought out cheers from the crowd, they were restricted. It was almost as if the crowd were confused. A little later, Hardik's dismissal made matters worse for MI, but easier for the MI crowd as their minds had cleared. The Wankhede crowd can be very unforgiving. Heck, if the great Sachin Tendulkar, after giving 18 years of his life, wasn't spared in 2006, and Virat Kohli received the same treatment in IPL 2013, what chances did Hardik have? Yet, the whole time, Hardik put up a brave face and sported a smile.

And all this… through no fault of his own. Hardik was given a promotion, and he accepted it. Yes, that MI did not address the removal of Rohit Sharma as captain – a stark contrast to how Chennai Super Kings managed the whole transitional phase between MS Dhoni and Ruturaj Gaikwad – could have been avoided. But here is a guy just trying to do what the franchise wants him to. As per the points table on April 2, MI are yet to open the account with three straight losses, and with the team scheduled to play their next three games at the Wankhede, don't expect these reactions to change much until Hardik himself rises to the challenge and delivers a match-winning performance.

That MI are the only team to have not won a single game this far, the lack of warmth from the crowd is a no-brainer – it would have eased out had the results been different – but in order to change the narrative, captain Hardik must take the onus on himself to break free of the shackles and produce a show for the ages.

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