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Rohit Sharma will have his hand on my shoulder: Hardik Pandya

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Unfazed by fans backlash, Pandya assures smooth transition from Rohit’s captaincy at Mumbai Indians
MUMBAI: Since the day he replaced Indian captain

Rohit Sharma

as the Mumbai Indians skipper after being traded by the MI from Gujarat Titans,

Hardik Pandya

has been trolled heavily by the fans, with the franchise also being the subject of several memes.
However, at MI’s pre-season presser on Monday, Hardik Pandya, looking fit and fresh after recovering from an ankle injury that kept him away from the game for five months, looked relaxed, with head coach

Mark Boucher

seated beside him.

Asked if the social media backlash following his appointment as the new MI captain affected him, Pandya, while confirming that he will bowl during the season, said, “I don’t focus on things that I can’t control. At the same time, we are grateful to the fans as a lot of fame and love comes from them. I respect their opinion, but at the same time, I am very excited.”

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Pandya gracefully talked about carrying forward his predecessor’s rich legacy, which saw MI winning five titles, in IPL-2024, while saying that “I know he will have his hand on my shoulder all through the season.”
“It (captaining Rohit) won’t be any different, because he will be there to help out if I need his help…He is the captain of the Indian team, which helps me because what this team has achieved, it has achieved under him. From now onwards, it will be about carrying forward what he has achieved, so there will be nothing awkward. I have played for 10 years under him and I know he is going to have his hand on my shoulders throughout the season,” he asserted.

With Rohit having been busy with international cricket, Pandya hasn’t had a chance so far to discuss their plans for the season. “Yes and no to that, because he has been travelling and playing. We haven’t seen each other for the last couple of months. We are all professionals, and by the time the team comes together and once he comes in, we will definitely have a chat,” the 30-year-old said.
Asked whether being relieved from the pressures of captaincy will now bring out the best in Rohit, who has been in fine form of late, Boucher said, “Rohit has been in fantastic form. Looking forward to ‘Ro’ going out and expressing himself. We watched him bat against England. He has been batting fantastic.”

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Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya at a press conference in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Having undergone a lengthy rehabilitation for the ankle injury he suffered in the ODI World Cup at home in October, Pandya was confident that his body would be able to withstand the rigours of the IPL.
“I have no issues with my body, I plan to play all the games. In the IPL, I have not missed many games anyway. Technically, I was out for three months. It was a freak injury and it had nothing to do with my earlier injuries. I tried to stop the ball and ended up getting injured,” said Pandya.
He is ready to deal with the pressures that come with leading a franchise which is always in the spotlight. Ironically, MI will launch their campaign on Sunday, March 24, against GT, Pandya’s previous team, which finished the runners-up last year!
The Baroda man said that he had never thought of leading the franchise with which he started his journey with MI back in 2015. “It feels wonderful, my journey started from here and I never thought that 10 years down the line, I will be leading this side. It feels very good.” Pandya said when asked about his new role.
Pandya won four titles with the side before joining GT as their captain in 2022. The all-rounder led Gujarat Titans to a title win in their very first season.
Pandya talked about the “wonderful, warm, exciting welcome” that he received at MI after coming back to a franchise where his IPL journey started. “It’s been amazing coming back, coming back to where it all started and the journey is going to continue. The welcome was wonderful, very warm, very exciting,” Pandya said.
The big-hitter said he saw his role in the team would be that of a finisher. “In this IPL, I will be an all-rounder and I will try to finish and win as many games as possible,” Pandya said.

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