Former India cricketer Aakash Chopra believes all-rounder Hardik Pandya is still not a finished product as a skipper in the cricketing circuit and feels that Mumbai Indians will have to provide him with a lot of inputs to shape him as a successful leader of the side.
On December 14, Mumbai Indians announced that Hardik would be the new skipper of the team ahead of the IPL 2024 season. It also meant the end of Rohit Sharma’s glorious ten-year reign as the side’s captain, who assumed the role mid-way from the 2013 IPL season.
Hardik led Gujarat to the IPL title in 2022 in their debut season, and was the Player of the Match in the final against Rajasthan Royals at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. In 2023, Gujarat made the IPL final for the second time in as many seasons under Hardik’s captaincy, where they finished runners up to Chennai Super Kings.
"Mumbai’s job is cut out" - Aakash Chopra
In both IPL 2022 and 2023 seasons, Gujarat had also topped the points table in the league stage under Hardik. “It’s my understanding and not some inside news. When Hardik (Pandya) decided to move from Gujarat, captaincy may have been a part of the deal. This decision would have been definitely communicated to Rohit Sharma as well. Rohit would have also been briefed about Mumbai Indians’ future plans.”
“I feel Ashish Nehra had a tremendous role in making Hardik the captain he was at Gujarat Titans. So, Mumbai’s job is cut out. They have to provide inputs at a different level for Hardik to replicate them on the field, because I don’t think Hardik, as a captain, is a finished product yet,” said Chopra on JioCinema’s daily sports show ‘#AAKASHVANI’.
"There comes a time when you start thinking about the future" - Aakash Chopra on Rohit Sharma's captaincy reign
Rohit had led Mumbai to five IPL titles - in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Overall, Rohit captained in 158 IPL matches, winning 87 games, losing 67 matches and four fixtures ending in a tie, with his win percentage standing at 55.06. Chopra feels it’s the end of an era as Mumbai look towards the future.
“Rohit is a legend. It’s an end of an era. He led the team for 10 years and won five IPL titles. He worked a lot for this and also earned a lot of fame. But there comes a time when you start thinking about the future. To be fair, the last two years have been average for MI, considering the high standards they have set for themselves.”
“While it’s extremely important to give someone a chance at the right time, it’s even more critical to decide when to let go of someone. There has been talk on social media that Rohit should have been allowed to leave on his own terms or may be allowed to lead MI in one match before Hardik was asked to take over. I personally don’t subscribe to it. There is no one bigger than a team,” he concluded.
IPL 2024 is likely to start in March.