IPL 2024: Hardik Pandya faces ire of Mumbai Indians fans during defeat at Gujarat 'home'

All-rounder was jeered by Ahmedabad crowd during harrowing debut as Mumbai captain

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Hardik Pandya had the worst possible start as captain of Mumbai Indians as his team squandered a straightforward shot at victory against Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad.

Playing in front of 90,000 spectators at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Pandya and Mumbai had the perfect chance to put recent controversies behind them with a winning start to IPL 2024. And victory looked like a mere formality when Mumbai were 126-3 after 15 overs chasing 169 – with 43 needed from 30 balls and seven wickets in hand.

Young batsmen Dewald Brevis (46) and Tilak Varma were well set but two slower ball bouncers by Mohit Sharma set the cat among the pigeons; the veteran seamer took the wicket of Brevis and then the dangerous Tim David.

Mumbai struggled for boundaries as the Titans pacers dug the ball into the wicket, making full use of the big playing surface.

The penultimate over was bowled by young Aussie quick Spencer Johnson who hit back by taking two wickets in the over despite being hit for a six by Varma.

Captain Pandya, for some reason, had pushed himself down the order to number seven - just ahead of the bowlers. With his team needing 19 from the last over, Pandya raised hopes by smashing Umesh Yadav for a six and a four off the first two balls, before falling to another short delivery as the Titans held their nerve to win by six runs.

More than the defeat, what would have hurt Mumbai and Pandya more is the hostile reception fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium gave to their local star.

Pandya hails from Gujarat and captained the Titans in the last two seasons - winning the title in his first attempt and losing the final narrowly off the final ball last year. However, ahead of the 2024 season, Mumbai made a shock move for Pandya, prying him away from his home base and naming him captain, replacing the hugely popular Rohit Sharma.

The apparent lack of discussion even among the playing group has led to a fallout within the camp. The squad is now clearly divided into camps, which was visible during and after Sunday's match.

And Pandya was at the centre of it all as fans turned on him en masse. From the moment he won the toss till he got out in the final over, Pandya was booed and jeered incessantly by the Ahmedabad crowd, with fans also chanting Rohit Sharma's name.

It got so obvious that even the commentators had to point it out. Former England captain Kevin Pietersen said on air: "I have never seen any Indian player getting booed like they are booing Hardik Pandya here in Ahmedabad. This is rare."

Fellow commentator Brian Lara suggested the only way for Pandya to win the fans over is by playing for India at the same venue, possibly pointing to a recent turn of events that saw a number of Indian players making themselves unavailable for the national team but being ready for the IPL.

Social media was flooded with videos of fans jeering every move of Pandya in Ahmedabad. And the reception is expected to turn markedly hostile when Mumbai play at the Wankhede Stadium next Monday.

Updated: March 25, 2024, 9:04 AM