IPL 2024: Can divine blessings ensure new MI captain Hardik Pandya luck?

Official video of Indian allrounder’s setting up a temple in dressing room raises eyebrows

Hardik Pandya placing a garland on a Hindu deity’s portrait (photo courtesy: Mumbai Indians)
Hardik Pandya placing a garland on a Hindu deity’s portrait (photo courtesy: Mumbai Indians)

NH Sports Bureau

It’s a common practice among Indian sportspersons to seek divine blessings ahead of important assignments, and the high-stakes IPL has been no exception either. From big stars to industry captains and team owners, all are in the habit of invoking gods or resorting to lucky charm though Hardik Pandya, the new Mumbai Indians skipper, seems to have taken it another level by installing a worshipping corner inside their dressing room.

A video shared by MI on their X handle on Monday captured Hardik entering the change room, placing a garland on a Hindu deity’s portrait and a box of sweets next to it before head coach Mark Boucher took over and embraced the Indian culture. The former South Africa wicketkeeper took a coconut and smashed it on to the ground to celebrate Hardik’s return to the franchise.

It’s a symbolic gesture of consecrating a temple and the decision surely has the blessings of the team management, though quite a few IPL insiders felt it was an unprecedented practice in the multi-faith ecosystem of the league. While there are instances of pujas being performed in temples by franchise owners on ‘auspicious’ days to pray for good luck to the teams, or cricketers are known to carry mini idols of gods and goddesses in their kits – none recalled a similar experience.

An IPL veteran of the earlier years said that while one of their owners visited a local temple or dargahs and offered sweets to players, he had also organised visits of Qazis of local mosques to honour the Muslim players’ requests to perform namaz at their respective hotel rooms.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if like the IPL 2022 which saw the birth of Hardik Pandya 2.0 as a player and leader of Gujarat Titans, the allrounder can have a similar impact this year after stepping into the shoes of Rohit Sharma. Unlike newcomers Titans in 2022, the five-time champions MI are one of the most followed franchises with sky-high expectations and the onus will be on Hardik to vindicate the management’s faith on him.

After captaining Titans to consecutive IPL finals in 2022 and 2023 – lifting the trophy in his maiden season as captain, he returns to the franchise where he began his IPL career as a rookie back in 2015.

The ensuing season promises to be a true test of Pandya’s character, fitness and of course captaincy. The injury-prone allrounder injured his ankle during India’s World Cup match against Bangladesh in October 2023 and has been out of competitive cricket since then. He turned up to play a couple of games at the DY Patil tournament but those were exhibition matches to give him the warm-up and game time he needed ahead of IPL.

The freak injury saw him losing out on a shot at captaincy at the T20 World Cup in June with the BCCI strongman Jay Shah’s announcement that Rohit will be leading out the team in the Caribbean. Every move that Hardik makes as the MI captain will hence be dissected – and the onus is on him to prove himself all over again.

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