Hardik Pandya’s Trade: A Narrative of Unfulfilled Expectations for Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Titans

Pandya is struggling to find his footing at MI. (Source: X.com)

Last year, two IPL-winning teams, Mumbai Indians (MI) and Gujarat Titans (GT), were involved in one of the biggest trade deals of all time. Hardik Pandya moved back to his previous franchise, Mumbai, from GT, where he had led the team for two years. Replacing Rohit Sharma came as a shock to many in the cricket fraternity. Two big questions being raised are, how did GT let go of their skipper and how did MI appoint Pandya as captain. Amidst these questions, the undeniable occurred.

It all unfolded rapidly but was undeniably enjoyable. Mumbai Indians introduced Pandya to the cricketing world back in 2015, laying the foundation for his journey before GT elevated his stature to new heights. Undoubtedly, MI played a pivotal role in shaping Pandya’s career. Therefore, it’s understandable why MI wanted Pandya back at any cost.

Following a challenging 2022 season, Mumbai attempted to address the void left by Pandya’s departure by acquiring Cameron Green for a hefty sum of Rs 17.5 crore. Did Green fulfill the role effectively? To some extent, yes, but not entirely. While Green performed decently for MI, the decision to bring in Pandya prompted them to part ways with Green. He then joined Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB).

Gujarat’s loss was considered as Mumbai’s gain. Re-acquiring Pandya, Mumbai has found the only missing piece in their jigsaw, or so, one thought. With Pandya coming back, MI’s star-studded batting lineup and bowling department were expected to be beefed up. But it hasn’t gone according to plans so far for MI. In IPL 2024, MI is placed at the sixth position, winning just three out of their first seven games. More than their position in the points table, it’s the way Pandya has underperformed as a player and captain which is a cause for concern. To score 141 runs at an average of 23.50 and four wickets at an economy rate of 11 runs per over, these numbers don’t do justice to his ability.

Usually confident, Pandya has started to look clueless as a captain. Don’t go too far back in time. In MI’s last game against Punjab Kings, during the latter stages of the second innings, Rohit was seen setting the field and talking to bowlers. And not just Rohit, at times Jasprit Bumrah steps in and even Suryakumar Kumar does. MI has too many leaders in their squad. While it’s a luxury for any team, it’s unfamiliar territory for Pandya, who was the lone leader in GT. When Pandya was with the Titans, he made his own decisions, batted at positions he liked and bowled the overs he wanted. But at MI, he has a star-studded coaching staff. Plus, there are ‘leaders’ like Rohit, Bumrah, and SKY. All in all, MI hasn’t benefitted from Pandya so far, as a captain and player.

At Gujarat Titans, Pandya ensured the team was in the top half of the points table. And now they’re reeling at the bottom of the points table. The void created by Pandya has not been filled. GT tried Azmatullah Omarzai. He failed. They have tried different combinations but nothing seems to be working for them. All because of the departure of Pandya.

Mumbai made Pandya bat in the lower order, but his role changed after moving to Gujarat. Across 30 innings for GT, Pandya amassed 833 runs at an impressive average of 37.86 and a striking rate of 133.5. This included six half-centuries, all achieved while batting at No.3 and 4. Pandya consistently occupied positions no lower than 4 for the Titans, excelling as an anchor.

Pandya’s batting figures may not have been exceptional but his contributions were invaluable for the Titans. Even with the ball, he took important wickets at crucial junctures of the game. Remember the 2022 final? He took the new ball and rattled Rajasthan Royals’ top order. It’s clear, the Titans are sorely missing these qualities in their current lineup.