IPL 2024: Steve Smith backs Hardik Pandya despite Mumbai Indians losing first three games

The all-rounder is leading Mumbai for the first time

By Web Desk
April 02, 2024
Steve Smith (L) and Hardik Pandya (R). - BCCI

Mumbai Indians' skipper Hardik Pandya is enduring a rough patch in the current edition of the Indian Premier League 2024. Pandya has faced jeers from the crowd since the outset of this IPL and even the home supporters at the Wankhede Stadium didn't hold back on April 1, Monday.

The Wankhede spectators echoed with chants of "Rohit, Rohit" despite the batsman being dismissed for a golden duck against Rajasthan. Former cricketer Manoj Tiwary has suggested that Rohit Sharma might reclaim the MI captaincy if the trend of booing Hardik persists.

Australian cricketer Steve Smith, however, stated on Star Sports that it is premature to call for Hardik's removal. Mumbai has only participated in three matches thus far, but has appeared to struggle in all of them.

Smith argued that Mumbai are typically slow starters and this season is no exception. The esteemed Test batter has emphasised the responsibility of senior players like Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah to support Pandya during this challenging phase.

"We know for a fact that Mumbai do not start off a season well. That's happened in the past, so they'll be confident they can turn it around with what they've got in the dressing room. They just need to unite together. People need to get behind Hardik, support him in any way," Steve Smith said after the MI vs RR game.

"I'm not surprised, everyone loves Rohit, but eventually, there's got to be a succession plan. Someone else has to take over at some stage, and clearly, they think Hardik is the one to do that. So the players have to get around Hardik. The senior Indian players have to get around him in particular.

"Everyone needs some help out in the middle. I don't care who's captain in the game they always need some help. They need some backing from their senior players and guys like Bumrah, Rohit need to obviously hop on board and help out as well," Smith added on the matter.

The Mumbai captain has been heavily criticised for his tactical calls in the IPL 2024. Pandya has copped criticism for batting too low down the order against Gujarat in the first match, and opening with the ball against Hyderabad in a record-shattering game.

Pandya switched up both of those things in their first home game, coming into bat early vs Rajasthan and then not bowling a single over in the second innings. The captain tried with the bat but was not able to pull Mumbai out of trouble.

"I think they're obviously missing SKY at the moment to, he's a big loss. He's arguably the best T20 better in the world at the moment, and perhaps if he was available, results would be different, but you know, they've got to galvanise.

"They've got to come together and they've got to come together really quickly and it's too early to call for someone's head. I think there's been three games in the tournament. Yes, they've not played well so far. But let's give them a chance. Let's let them try and work their way back into the tournament," Smith concluded.