Picture Credit: X/IPL

Picture Credit: X/IPL

The Indian all-rounder, Hardik Pandya, has been at the receiving end of constant criticism from fans on social media and elsewhere after getting appointed as Mumbai Indians captain for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, replacing the highly successful leader Rohit Sharma in the role. The 30-year-old has been getting booed by fans at every stadium during the ongoing IPL season, who aren’t too pleased to see him captaining MI.

But, why have the fans suddenly turned on Hardik Pandya after he took over the reigns of MI, making him the most booed cricketer ever, especially when he has already led Gujarat Titans to two successive finals in the IPL, during the last two seasons of the tournament, winning the trophy once? The answer lies in the admiration of Rohit Sharma, the former captain of Mumbai Indians, winning them five IPL trophies, along with leading India to the final of the ODI World Cup 2023 at home, raising his stature among the Indian cricketing greats.

The fans haven’t accepted the departure of Rohit Sharma from the captaincy role of Mumbai Indians, which was bound to happen sooner rather than later. And in the aftermath, the uproar against Hardik Pandya isn’t just limited to the hardcore MI fans, but also the admirers of the current Indian captain, and both.

Now the question arises as to how Hardik Pandya is the most booed cricketer ever in the history of the sport? It stems from the fact that the Indian audience is by far the biggest in the world, and there hasn’t been such a detesting reaction for any cricketer in the country like what Hardik Pandya is receiving currently.

During a home match for Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bengaluru in the IPL 2024, Virat Kohli, one of the Indian cricketing greats, gestured towards the fans at the Wankhede Stadium to stop booing Hardik Pandya, when he had walked out to bat. But, the fans didn’t pay much heed to Kohli’s suggestion, and they kept booing Pandya, who is the captain of their own team.

It was a massive surprise to some, who saw how Virat Kohli was able to talk the fans into not booing Steve Smith during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 match between India and Australia at The Oval in London. Notably, Steve Smith was getting booed for doing a disservice to the sport in 2018, receiving a ban for a year due to his involvement in the Sandpaper gate saga, which is a far more gruesome offence than anything Hardik Pandya has done, with his involvement in the Mumbai Indians.

Rohit Sharma, the former MI captain, had gestured towards the fans at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, to stop booing Hardik Pandya during the IPL 2024 season as well. Some other former and current cricketers have also come out in support of Hardik Pandya, asking the fans to let him be.

Ultimately, in the next few weeks and months, it will be interesting to see if the fans continue to boo Hardik Pandya, especially if the topsy-turvy form of the Mumbai Indians continue in the ongoing IPL 2024 season. Although, the fan criticism for Hardik Pandya is warranted if he is unable to deliver consistent all-round performances and take MI over the finish line more often than not, but the constant booing for just leading the team into the future, shouldn’t be the case.