IPL 2024: Why Hardik Pandya’s move to Mumbai Indians is a win-win one

Lure of the franchise, a possible future national T20 captaincy, a spike in brand value — it all adds up for the allrounder

For Hardik Pandya, the move is not just about money (photo: National Herald archives)
For Hardik Pandya, the move is not just about money (photo: National Herald archives)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A cryptic X post from Irfan Pathan a few days back had set tongues wagging. "Use and throw has been the real characteristic since the start," said the former India allrounder and current TV pundit, as it emerged that Hardik Pandya would be traded to his old team Mumbai Indians after an extremely fruitful two seasons with Gujarat Titans. 

While Pathan took no names for obvious reasons, it was a case of two-and-two adding up, while a section of fans said it was ‘greed’ which played a key factor behind the move. However, the way the plot has unravelled over the last few days, it seems that Indian cricket’s utility man wanted to come back to the 'Mumbai Paltan' with a long-term plan rather than just for money — with the franchise captaincy and possible leadership of the national T20 team not too far away. 

There was a sense of all’s-well-that-ends-well when both franchises involved in the negotiations sent out their media releases, within a few minutes of each other, on Monday afternoon. While Mumbai hailed Pandya’s return as a ‘reunion’ of sorts, the Titans looked to move on by admitting that the player himself wanted this switch and named young Shubman Gill as captain for the 2024 season, with an eye to the future.  

"As the first captain of Gujarat Titans, Hardik Pandya has helped the franchise deliver two fantastic seasons that resulted in winning one IPL championship and one appearance in the final. He has now expressed a desire to return to his original team Mumbai Indians. We respect his decision and wish him all the very best in his future endeavours,’’ Vikram Solanki, director of cricket for the Titans, said in the release. 

No prizes for guessing that this is more corporate protocol on Solanki's part, as the Titans were initially in no mood to release the skipper who had been inspirational with his leadership — as well as performances with bat and ball — to produce immediate results for a new franchise.

With the benefit of hindsight, it has to be admitted that the Titans management had taken a major gamble in taking Pandya on board for a hefty annual fee of Rs 15 crore two years ago, when he had just recovered from injury and was on a comeback trail to the Indian team. 

The association between Pandya and the Titans proved win-win for both — with the former turning a corner both as a performer and leader of men. Cut to 2023-end, it was Pandya's prerogative to decide if he wanted to move franchises, and even with the ICC World Cup still on, it emerged that he wanted to return to Mumbai owing to reported "differences" with the Titans management. The last word can never be spoken on this, but Pandya must have sensed a window of opportunity waiting to open up. 

The challenge before Mumbai, according to the IPL rulebook, was to free up the purse to match the hefty annual fee of Rs 15 crore for Pandya — which they ensured with a trade-off of Australian allrounder Cameron Green to Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday evening, and the release of Jofra Archer and a number of other overseas players.

While the deadline for IPL franchises to release their list of retention and release of players was 4 pm on Sunday 26 November, trading between teams could have continued until 12 December, a week ahead of the IPL mini-auction in Dubai on 19 December.  

The issue of annual fees thus sorted, the other contentious factor which has gone under the radar is the transfer fee which Mumbai ought to be paying to the Titans in such a mega deal — from which Pandya is supposed to get a percentage. There is, mind you, no BCCI cap on the transfer fee, and the amount involved in Pandya's transfer remains hitherto undisclosed. 

The much-needed balance that Pandya can lend to the Mumbai team on the cricketing front is undeniable. What, however, will be of additional significance is that RISE Worldwide — the sports and event management wing of Reliance Industries which handles the portfolio of Pandya (along with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Tilak Verma) — went on record last year to say his brand value had increased by 30-40 per cent after the 2022 IPL season. 

A comeback to the Mumbai Indians fold, therefore, can only benefit Pandya both and off the field over the next few years.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines