Mixed emotions for Mumbaikars as Hardik Pandya returns as MI captain for IPL 2024

Hardik Pandya’s appointment as captain of the Mumbai Indians led to significant chatter in the cricketing world, particularly, as it meant, stepping into the shoes of Rohit Sharma. After all, the latter had led MI to five IPL titles. The decision set social media on fire, with a split verdict — Pandya the right choice or Rohit Sharma’s legacy was brought to a screeching halt.

On a lively Sunday evening at The Irish House, a popular pub in Bandra, Mumbai, the atmosphere was vibrant during the IPL and EPL matches being shown live. Animated discussions raged as Mumbai Indians clashed with Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. The focal point of conversation was change in MI captaincy and its potential impact on the team’s performance.

Before the start of the game, Aadit, a staunch supporter of Mumbai Indians, expressed his sentiment on the captaincy switch: “Rohit Sharma has been the face of Mumbai Indians. He’s been an exceptionally successful captain in the IPL, if not the most. While Hardik Pandya leading the side is acceptable, for me, Rohit Sharma will forever remain my captain.”

In contrast, Aadit’s friend Tanay, a cricket enthusiast who has played the sport himself, had a different view. “Rohit Sharma as captain has done his job. It was the right time to invest in somebody new, and nobody better to do it than Hardik Pandya. He had started his IPL journey with the Mumbai Indians. The franchise is planning for the future, and that is the way it should be. Nothing will always remain the same, and this was just bound to happen at some point.”

The Irish House was buzzing with anticipation and jam packed by 7:30 pm. It was a reflection of how Mumbaikars love cricket and are passionate about their own IPL franchise. Drinks were washed down even as the action was getting hot in Ahmedabad. Unlike many other cities, Mumbai has always embraced the culture of socialising over cricket matches. Chants of “Mumbai! Mumbai!” reverberated in the background, punctuated by the enthusiastic endorsement of another cricket aficionado, Ankit.

He was watching Pandya’s leadership with eagerness. “I am extremely excited to see Hardik lead this Mumbai side. He was extremely successful with the Gujarat Titans, and I am sure he will replicate the same brilliance for Mumbai Indians. He has a sense of calm aggression, which I feel will work in his favour. The pressure can be off from our Hitman too, and he can just focus on scoring as many runs as an opener.”

What will be interesting to see is how Rohit Sharma goes about his game without the pressure of leading the side. Another important factor that will have to be considered is how this Mumbai Indians team functions under a new captain. Having a new captain could be a difficulty in the earlier stages of the IPL.

Jinesh, who has been following the Mumbai Indians since 2008, felt, “Having Hardik as a new captain will work in Mumbai’s favour. However, it’s going to be a huge change for everybody in the setup, which might take some time to get used to. Once a couple of matches are under the belt, there will be a better team understanding, which can help Hardik lead his side better,” said Jinesh.

The lack of understanding seemed quite evident on the field on Sunday night when they took on the Titans, according to Aman, another fan. “A lot of hype has been built around Hardik’s captaincy, and I feel he was a bit below par in the first innings. He missed out on crucial bowling changes, which could have done greater damage. Let’s be honest here, how fair will it always be to rely on Bumrah to get you three wickets in every match?”

As the season unfolds, only time will tell how Hardik Pandya leads the Mumbai Indians campaign. Every Mumbaikar is hoping that Pandya can shoulder the responsibility. There is no denying the fact the absence of Rohit Sharma the charismatic captain is deeply felt. For many Mumbai Indians fans, the team will forever be synonymous with Hitman!

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