‘I am fed up of looking to pinpoint individuals’ – Pollard defends Hardik Pandya

'I am fed up of looking to pinpoint individuals' - Pollard defends Hardik Pandya
‘I am fed up of looking to pinpoint individuals’ – Pollard defends Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya looked forlorn. He had walked out to bat with Mumbai Indians’ asking rate just under 13, and by the time he was dismissed – for 2 off 6 balls – it had shot up close to 17. He paused on his walk back and joined the MI group that included the head coach Mark Boucher and batting coach Kieron Pollard as the timeout was taken.

Pollard threw his weight behind MI’s under-fire captain Hardik and said everyone “will be singing his praises when time comes”.

“I don’t know if it will affect his confidence. He is a confident guy, he has been great around the group,” Pollard said after Mumbai’s fourth loss in six outings in IPL 2024. “In cricket, you have good days and bad days and I am seeing an individual who is working bloody hard to improve his skills and plying his trade.

“I am fed up of [us] looking to pinpoint individuals; cricket is a team game at the end of the day. This is an individual that is going to represent the country in less than six weeks’ time, and all are going to cheer him and want him to do well. So high time we try to encourage and stop nitpicking and see if we can get the best out of one of the great allrounders India has produced. He can bat, bowl and field, and has a X-factor about him.

“I hope very well deep down within my heart that when he comes out on top, I’ll sit back and watch everyone sing his praises.”

After the pre-season IPL trade, Hardik has been the subjected to jeers from the fans in Ahmedabad (where his former team Gujarat Titans is based) and Hyderabad in their first two games, and a similar treatment has continued in Mumbai’s home games, too. But his form this season has been a concern.

Returning from an ankle injury suffered during the ODI World Cup last year, he has scored 131 runs at a strike rate of 145.55 and picked up three wickets but at a high economy of 12. In his first stint with Mumbai – from 2015 to 2021 – Hardik averaged 27.33 with the bat but struck at 153.91. In his two years with Titans, whom he captained, his average shot up to 37.86 – he played in the middle order and anchored their innings – while the strike rate came down to 133.49.

On Sunday, he pulled a short ball from Tushar Deshpande straight to Ravindra Jadeja at deep midwicket on the longer part of the ground.

“As an individual you have to evolve,” Pollard said of Hardik’s batting methods. “When you are young, you have the youthful exuberance. You go out and do things in a certain manner. The older you get, accountability and responsibility kick in.

“What I am seeing is the guy is evolving. We, as individuals, want to see certain things but sometimes the game does not demand certain things and [players] are going to make mistakes as you go along, as we all have done. The individual has put in the work and hard work pays off. So, all of us will be singing his praises when time comes.”

Speaking on ESPNcricinfo TimeOut, former Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody felt Hardik has the right support staff at Mumbai.

“As good a player Hardik Pandya is, he has got to earn the respect of the dressing room and his fans,” Moody said. “He’s finding that difficult because no one’s letting him in at the moment. What would have made it easier is if they would have won their first three games in a row, and it would have been business as usual. We wouldn’t be this far down the road with regards to talking about it.

“It is a challenge. He has got a lot of good people around him though. You look in that dugout there’s a lot of experience around him – a lot of international experience, a lot of IPL experience and on the field. That’s what he needs to draw from. He needs to take onboard support from that experience and try to get this ship turned in the right direction.”

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Sudarshanan7

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