Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya receive 'sympathy'; MI accused of creating 'division' through 'regrettable' captaincy deal | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya receive 'sympathy'; MI accused of creating 'division' through 'regrettable' captaincy deal

Apr 03, 2024 03:56 PM IST

Former India quick Balvinder Singh Sandhu has blamed the Mumbai Indians for the captaincy chaos involving Hardik Pandya, Rohit Sharma and the players.

With every game, the public backlash towards Mumbai Indians and more specifically, their captain, Hardik Pandya is growing. With three defeats from three matches, this is not the kind of start they newly-appointed captain or the franchise must have hoped. Not only are they languishing at the bottom of the points table yet to open their account, the jeering and booing of the crowd isn't doing the team any good either.

The Mumbai Indians look crushed... and there's no two ways about it. (PTI)
The Mumbai Indians look crushed... and there's no two ways about it. (PTI)

At the centre of the storm is Hardik, who Balvinder Singh Sandhu feels, has got caught up in this tangle through no fault of his own. The former India World Cup winning seam bowler has in fact blamed MI's management as a whole for getting carried away with the Hardik wave as he returned to the franchise after a gap of two years. Removing Rohit Sharma, who has a proven captaincy record with five IPL title wins, and replacing him with Hardik right away is a decision the franchise should have thought through, reckoned Sandhu. He also raised questions at the management for not being able to convince the owners otherwise.

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"One would expect that such a pivotal decision as changing the captain would have been thoroughly deliberated upon by the owners in consultation with the professionally employed think tank of the Mumbai Indians. However, it appears that the professionals involved may have simply gone with the flow to appease the owners, rather than having the courage to provide them candid and forthright assessments," Sandhu wrote in his column for the Mid-Day.

"As professionals, it is imperative to offer honest analysis of situations, especially when considering the replacement of a captain as accomplished as Rohit. It’s crucial to recognise the invaluable contributions of players like him who not only excel on the field but also serve as ambassadors for the team, bolstering its brand and fostering a dedicated fan base who invest their time and resources in supporting the team."

It's been almost 4 months since Hardik was named captain, but the franchise is yet to experience a change of winds. He was booed relentlessly in Ahmedabad, a little louder in Hyderabad and shown no sympathy whatsoever at the Wankhede. The disapproval was so evident in the fans' voice that it required intervention from Sanjay Manjrekar – albeit to no avail. Hardik is clearly not able to win the crowd over, and enduring defeats is only making that pursuit that bit tougher.

Sandhu added that the whole fiasco could have been avoided had everyone involved in the management thought about switching leadership rationally. There is no way those involved in the decision-making couldn't have been aware of the ripple effect the change in captaincy would have caused, which is why he doesn't blame neither Hardik nor Rohit for the uproar.

"The backlash faced by Hardik from the crowd isn't solely directed at him but indirectly implicates those responsible for his appointment as captain. The top management of the team was undoubtedly aware of the ramifications of their decision, underscoring the repercussions of surrounding oneself with individuals who prioritise pleasing superiors over providing comprehensive and objective insights, regardless of the consequences," he said.

"My sympathy extends to both Hardik and Rohit, as they bear no fault for the unnecessary division created by the negative reactions of the crowd. Such behaviour detracts from the enjoyment of genuine cricket enthusiasts, who attend matches in anticipation of witnessing exhilarating contests between bat and ball."

Unnecessary division, regrettable deal made things worse for MI: Sandhu

Lastly, Sandhu made another hard-hitting claim on the Hardik vs Rohit captaincy saga, by mentioning the rumoured 'captaincy deal' in Pandya's contract. Having led Gujarat Titans to back-to-back IPL finals – including a victorious one - apparently, there was a clause that stated Hardik would only return to MI if he was promised captaincy. Although nothing is official yet – Hardik and MI chose to remain silent on the matter when the question was asked during MI's pre-season press conference, but irrespective Sandhu believes it has created a division, for which the players are paying the price.

"If, indeed, Hardik's elevation to captaincy depended upon conditions unrelated to his cricketing prowess, such as his transfer from the Gujarat Titans to Mumbai Indians, it stands as a regrettable transaction. Being subjected to trolling by fans of two teams reflects poorly on the decision-making process and highlights the adverse outcomes of prioritising factors beyond cricketing merit," Sandhu, member of India's 1983 World Cup winning squad, pointed out.

"I greatly admire Hardik's attitude, often citing it as a model for the players I mentor. His resilience and determination exemplify qualities that transcend mere talent, demonstrating that success in cricket is achievable through sheer grit and perseverance."

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