IPL 2024: Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya confident he has Rohit Sharma's support

All-rounder took over from national team captain in controversial circumstances at franchise

Hardik Pandya, who was the captain of Gujarat Titans, is now back at Mumbai Indians as skipper in place of Rohit Sharma, right. Sportzpics for IPL
Powered by automated translation

Mumbai Indians new captain Hardik Pandya said he expects the full support of Rohit Sharma as he takes charge of the franchise amid a period of tumult that included a sudden change of leadership and reports of a rift in the team.

Sharma is one of the most successful captains in IPL, guiding the franchise to five titles. But after three unsuccessful seasons, he was removed from the position with Pandya brought in from Gujarat Titans.

The surreptitious nature of the move triggered widespread debate and an uproar from fans. It also created an awkward situation within the Mumbai dressing room as Sharma will lead Pandya in the national team during the T20 World Cup that follows the IPL.

When asked if the captaincy change in Mumbai will lead to any difficulties in this year's tournament, Pandya said he foresees no such issues.

"It won’t be any different. He is the one who has helped me out if I need any help. He is the captain of the Indian team, which will help me," Pandya said on Monday.

"Whatever he has achieved so far with Mumbai, I will be carrying it forward. I played my entire career under him. I am sure he will have his hand on my shoulders."

The star all-rounder has been on the sidelines since the 2023 ODI World Cup at home where he twisted his ankle while trying to stop a ball in a league phase match against Bangladesh.

Since then, his injury was aggravated and by the time he started bowling and batting, the white-ball season was almost over. And since he does not play Test cricket anymore, Pandya will be seen for the first time since in the IPL.

The all-rounder explained that he could have been fit sooner, but his injury flared up while trying to be ready for the knockout matches of the World Cup.

"My injury at the World Cup was a freak injury. I tried to stop the ball and twisted my ankle. I could have been back after one and a half months.

"Every day we tried to be ready for the World Cup. On the 12th day, my injury expanded more. The question was if I can represent India at 50 per cent. The answer was no. India deserved better than that. From there, my rehabilitation started.

"Technically I was out for three months, but there was no cricket for me for two months."

Pandya was grilled further about the state of his relationship with Sharma and a devoted Mumbai fanbase that has vented its ire on social media. The 30-year-old said he has not had a chance to talk to the former franchise captain as yet, and said he respects fans' emotions during this period.

"Yes and no," Pandya said when asked if he had talked to Sharma. "He has been playing (for India). It has been a couple of months since the change happened. Once he comes, we will definitely have a chat.

"Regarding backlash, I respect the fans and their opinion. We focus on the sport, I control the controllables. We are grateful for the fans. A lot of fame, lot of love comes from them, they have every right."

Another area that requires attention is the fitness level of players and the upcoming T20 World Cup. Many star players would be using the IPL as a chance to audition for limited spots in their respective national teams for the showpiece event. And while Pandya said he would be happy if his players went on to make it to the T20 World Cup, the focus has to be the IPL.

"You should be focusing for the team you are playing for. Everyone has ambition, but being true for the team is important. For my boys, the focus has to be the IPL. And in that, if someone gets a chance (for T20 World Cup), very happy," Pandya said.

Updated: March 19, 2024, 4:45 AM