'Want Hardik Pandya to get booed': MI captain vs ex-team GT as IPL schedule out | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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'I want Hardik Pandya to get booed in Ahmedabad': MI captain opens campaign against ex-team GT as IPL schedule announced

Feb 23, 2024 07:08 AM IST

Hardik Pandya's Mumbai Indians will open their IPL 2024 campaign against Gujarat Titans on Sunday, March 24.

The IPL 2024 opener featuring Royal Challengers Bangalore and defending champions Chennai Super Kings promises to be an action-packed contest to get the 17th edition of the Indian Premier League going, but the real battle lines will be drawn on Sunday evening as Hardik Pandya, captaining the Mumbai Indians for the first time, squares off against the team he knows inside out - the Gujarat Titans. Two years ago, Hardik left MI to start a new chapter with the newly-introduced GT, and did rather well, leading the team to a title win in 2022 and a runner-up finish last year.

Hardik Pandya - a five-time IPL winner, once as a skipper(BCCI)
Hardik Pandya - a five-time IPL winner, once as a skipper(BCCI)

However, expected to be the face of the GT franchise, the tables turned dramatically when he not only returned to MI in 2023 but was named their captain for the season ahead. While MI fans have been pretty vocal about the team management's decision to replace Rohit Sharma with Hardik as captain, GT came up with a call of their own, elevating Shubman Gill to captaincy. Hence, when GT and MI begin their campaigns, expect emotions to run high.

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Also Read: IPL 2024 Schedule announced

However, former India batter Aakash Chopra has gone a step ahead and wants the Ahmedabad crowd to boo Hardik when he walks out for the toss. Chopra, explaining his desire, explained how he had witnessed something similar as a player way back in 2008 and added that he won't be surprised if Hardik is subjected to the same treatment.

"I want Hardik Pandya to get booed in Ahmedabad. I'll tell you why. First IPL season, Mumbai vs Kolkata. We were playing at the Wankhede Stadium. Ajit Agarkar was in our team and we had to take him off the boundary because he was Mumbai's boy, playing against Mumbai, in Mumbai and getting booed by the Wankhede crowd. So we put him back inside the circle because it was not nice," Chopra said on Jio Cinema during the IPL 2024 schedule announcement on Thursday.

'I wish… No, I hope Hardik gets booed'

It is believed that once the decision to bring Hardik back to MI was made, captaincy was a part of the deal. MI, who had made it a habit to win at least one IPL title every alternate year – in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 – had gone without a win for three consecutive seasons. And with Rohit Sharma already 36, managing the responsibility of captaining the Indian team in all three formats, the management believed the time for MI's transition is now.

Chopra reckons nothing makes a league more engaging and emotionally-driven than the equation between a player and the crowd, and what better way to inject more adrenaline than a title-winning player returning to his former home ground representing the opposition. That's what Chopra feels is best for business.

"Now Hardik Pandya goes to Mumbai after winning the championship once, leading the team to the final the next time. And not just that but choosing to leave the franchise. If there isn't any heartburn in the public of Ahmedabad, if they don't feel hurt, where is the fun? I am expecting. No, I am hoping – don't tell anyone – that Hardik goes for the toss and people go 'Boo'. That's where the league matures," the former India opener mentioned.

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