Hardik Pandya: From trolls, abuse to being the MVP of T20 World Cup

He is now the first Indian to climb to No.1 T20 allrounder’s spot jointly with Wanindu Hasaranga

Hardik Pandya with the MVP trophy in Barbados (photo: Getty Images)
Hardik Pandya with the MVP trophy in Barbados (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

When Hardik Pandya inched his way along with his teammates to Wankhede Stadium – wading through a manic crowd on Thursday evening - he must have been wondering at how quickly life can come a full circle. From being possibly the most vilified man even two months back during the IPL as the new Mumbai Indians captain at the same venue, not to speak of brutal trolls, he returned there as a hero after being adjudged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the T20 World Cup.

The ICC rankings released on Wednesday saw him becoming the first Indian to be the No.1 T20 allrounder (jointly with Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga), but it hardly tells the whole story. It was not only that make-or-break final over against South Africa, but the way Pandya lived up to his billing of being the premier allrounder of the team with a tally of 144 runs at a strike rate of 150 and 11 wickets which earned him the promotion.

It’s not the first time that life has thrown a curveball at him. Bouncing back from the fall guy image courtesy of an unsavoury controversy he courted with his comments at a TV talk show, a career-threatening back injury, Pandya had consolidated his place in the white ball set-up till a freak injury during the 2023 World Cup ended his campaign.

As emotions went on an overdrive at Kingstown, Barbados last Sunday, tears rolled down his cheeks. ‘’The last six months had been tough for me. I have controlled my tears, there were times when I felt like crying but I didn’t. I knew there were people who wanted to see me cry and I didn’t want to give them a chance,’’ Pandya told the broadcasters.   

His troubles started when soon after the 50-overs World Cup, Pandya completed a controversial trade-off from Gujarat Titans to Mumbai Indians with the latter naming him as the captain in place of Rohit Sharma for IPL 2024. A decision, which saw the MI followers plummeting on Instagram and the five-time champions endured a miserable campaign in April-May.

Times have changed and how in the last week alone, Pandya’s social media following scaled up by 1.5 million as he recovered all the followers he lost over last six months. His 33 million followers on Instagram places him next to only Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma among active cricketers – something which his portfolio managers RISE Worldwide feel will also contribute to his brand value.

Looking ahead, it looks like a matter of time before Pandya is handed the T20 captaincy of India on a permanent basis. Let’s wait and watch.

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