IPL 2024: Is Rohit Sharma primed for a player-mentor role in Mumbai Indians?

Mumbai have had that in the past with Sachin Tendulkar too, says head of cricket Mahela Jayawardene

Rohit Sharma (right) with Mahela Jayawardene (photo courtesy: Mumbai Indians)
Rohit Sharma (right) with Mahela Jayawardene (photo courtesy: Mumbai Indians)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The dust seems to be settling on the unceremonious removal of Rohit Sharma as Mumbai Indians captain. If there was a certain lack of grace in the way the announcement was made last week, however credible the new choice is, the MI management has now slipped into damage control mode. 

Reports of the Mumbai Paltan losing over 1.5 million followers on Instagram in the wake of Rohit’s removal was disturbing but then, those were largely emotional decisions — fans’ angst is nothing new in IPL and has happened with the likes of Sourav Ganguly or Gautam Gambhir.

Media reports suggested that at least two of the franchises had been in touch with the India captain to try and convince the MI management for a trading since that window opened on Wednesday, but it is not feasible with the teams left with only a pittance in their purse after the auction in Dubai (barring Punjab Kings’ Rs 12.50 crore). 

The ‘Hitman’ hence is being primed to slip into a player-mentor role, somewhat on the lines of Sachin Tendulkar, and will be in line for a place in the dugout once he is done with white ball cricket. This is what Mahela Jayawardene, Mumbai Indians’ global head of cricket, hinted during a chat with the broadcasters on the sidelines of the auction when asked about their most successful IPL captain’s role in the new season.

"Having Ro (Rohit Sharma) in the team, on and off the field, to guide the next generation is very important for us. He has been absolutely brilliant. I have worked very closely with Ro. He is a fabulous individual and I am sure he will be part of the legacy who will guide that through.

"Mumbai have had that in the past too with Sachin (Tendulkar), who played with the youngsters. He gave the leadership to someone else and made sure Mumbai Indians was going in the right direction. It’s the same thing. We had this conversation and everyone is buying into that, so, it’s for us to look forward to the next season," the Sri Lankan legend said. 

While Rohit, now in South Africa to prepare the two-Test series has been silent on the sensitive issue, Mahela’s words — clearly with a sanction from their decision makers — are what the star would have liked to hear as it gave everyone a clarity about his role.  

The fans’ reaction on social media is likely to be a fleeting one, but Mahela handled the question with a degree of sensitivity. "It's fair on the fans as well (to react). I think everyone is emotional and we have to respect that as well. But at the same time, as a franchise, you have to make those decisions."

Touching on the transition of captaincy once again, Mahela said: "This is something we have spoken about as a franchise. It is a tough decision, we had to make them. It is emotional and tough, to be honest. But everyone who has been part of Mumbai know we cherish every moment a player has contributed, and will contribute going forward.  

"The legacy is something we want to build on and make sure we keep fighting for those wins, those trophies. As a good unit, we have the skill set to do it. That’s the focus going ahead. Probably everyone in their eyes will think it is too soon, but it is a decision we had to make at some point." 

There is no gainsaying that Hardik Pandya, the new incumbent, will have big shoes to fill, though he does have the credentials to do so. It may be pertinent to remind ourselves here that when Rohit himself was hoisted as the MI captain mid-season in 2013 at the expense of Ricky Ponting, he did not have any experience close to Pandya as on date but went on to win the first title for them.  

Pandya, at least, will have the reassuring presence of Rohit around, if at least for one more season.

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