We are professionals, he will always be there to help me: Pandya on Rohit

Hardik Pandya
Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya at a press conference in Mumbai on Monday. Photo: PTI/Shashank Parade

Mumbai: Mumbai Indians skipper Hardik Pandya on Monday said his predecessor Rohit Sharma will continue to be a guiding force for him during the Indian Premier League (IPL) despite the unexpected change of leadership that the franchise announced ahead of the upcoming season, triggering a "backlash" from the fans.

Pandya, who led Gujarat Titans in the past two seasons, is back at Mumbai Indians as captain for the 2024 edition. Having led Mumbai Indians to five titles, Rohit was surprisingly replaced by Pandya going into the upcoming season.

"It will not be any different, he will always be there to help me. You mentioned that he is the captain of the Indian team, which helps me because this team, what it has achieved, it has achieved under him

"...from now onwards, it is (about) what he has achieved, I just have to carry forward that," Pandya said at a media interaction here.

"I don't think it will be any awkward or any different. It will be nice feeling because we have been playing for 10 years. I have played my whole career under him and he is going to have his hand on my shoulder throughout the season," he added.

Pandya admitted his move of leaving the Gujarat Titans captaincy and replacing Rohit at the helm in Mumbai Indians did upset a section of fans.

"The backlash...To be very honest we respect fans but at the same time, we focus on the sport and what is required. I focus on the controllables and I do not focus on what I cannot control," Pandya said.

"At the same time, we are very grateful to fans. A lot of fame and love comes from them and they have every right and I respect their opinion," he added.

Pandya said he has not met Rohit for the last two months or so and would only be chatting with the former skipper once the squad gets into action.

"Yes and no. He has been travelling and playing," Pandya replied when asked if he has had a chat with Rohit.

"We are professionals, by the time the team comes together...we have been playing cricket...it has only been a couple of months that we have not seen each other. Whenever the IPL starts, which is from today since we have the practice game, once he comes, we will definitely have a chat," he said.

The star all-rounder will be making his comeback to top-level cricket with the IPL, having undergone a lengthy rehabilitation for the ankle injury he suffered in the ICC World Cup at home in October.

"I have no issues with my body, I plan to play all the games. In IPL, I have not missed many games anyway. Technically, I was out for three months. It was a freak injury and it had nothing to do with my earlier injuries. I tried to stop the ball and ended up getting injured," said Pandya.

The 30-year-old got instant success as leader of Gujarat Titans and after his return to the high-profile Mumbai franchise, he will be expected to add another silverware to their trophy cabinet.

"Expectations will always be there in Mumbai Indians. We must focus on the process. I cannot win tomorrow, we will have to wait for two months and see how we prepare, how we get together. We will play a brand which everyone will enjoy," he said.

Head coach Mark Boucher, who was sitting alongside Pandya in the media interaction, was also asked about Rohit and his role going forward.

"Rohit has been in fantastic form. Looking forward to Ro going out and expressing himself. We watched him bat against England. He has been batting fantastic," said Boucher.

The coach hoped that the amount of cricket that the squad members have played in recent months would hold them in good stead in the IPL.

"Thankfully, there has been a lot of cricket that has been going on. So, the guys have played a lot of cricket. We are in a very good position from the players' perspective. The guys have been in good form as well," he said.

"Obviously, there are injuries which you have to manage. It's about trying to find roles for the new faces in the team. We are in a good position as a team. We are trying to give direction to the whole squad as to how we want to play," added the former South African stumper. 

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