Former India cricketer Manoj Tiwary expects Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya to be booed a “bit louder” when the team plays its first home IPL game here on April 1 but he feels that the flamboyant all-rounder has the temperament to deal with it. Pandya, who replaced Rohit Sharma as MI captain before the start of the season, was booed by fans in Ahmedabad when the side played against his former franchise Gujarat Titans on Sunday.

MI lost the match by six runs and will take on Rajasthan Royals in their first home game at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday next week.

“…you have to see how he gets welcomed here in Mumbai because I think he is going to get booed a bit louder here…Because as a fan, Mumbai fan or a Rohit Sharma fan, nobody expected that captaincy will be given to Hardik,” Tiwary told PTI Videos in an interview.

“And despite Rohit giving five trophies to Mumbai Indians, he has to lose the captaincy. I don’t know what are the reasons but I think it has not gone down well with the fans. And that is the reaction which you see on the field,” he explained.

Tiwary is, however, impressed with how Pandya has dealt with fan backlash.

“…knowing him, whatever I have been observing of late through television, that despite getting booed, he kept his calm, he kept his nerve, which is the sign of a good temperament,” he said.

The 38-year-old, who is the sports minister of West Bengal, said Pandya will have to cut out the noise and focus on his performance so that he is in good shape for the T20 World Cup starting June 1 in the Americas.

“I believe even if he was not booed, he has to perform well to get into the Indian team to play the World cup. Because it is important for all the players to perform well and be fit as well to be available for selection.

“And him being the number one all-rounder…obviously he has to be in form and to be in form he has to perform,” he said.

Tiwary competed for the Delhi franchise in the IPL and he is keenly observing how his former team is handling Rishabh Pant’s comeback from a life-threatening car accident in 2022.

He believes the big-hitter would be back to his devastating best very soon thanks to the unflinching support of the franchise.

“First of all, he’s not going to be any burden. In fact, it’s going to be more positive impact which he brings along with him because as a player, he’s one of the most talented cricketers in India, in fact in the world cricket right now,” he pointed out.

“Obviously in the first game, he did not look at his fluent best but that is obvious because it’s not easy after coming back from injury…But the intent was good from him. With a few more matches, he will be back in his elements as a match-winner,” Tiwary said.

Tiwary said the backing of coach Ricky Ponting and mentor Sourav Ganguly has been a key factor in aiding Pant’s comeback.

“From last year itself, the coach of the team, Ricky Ponting, brought him into the dugout…if we all can recollect, two months ago, Sourav Ganguly said that he’s going to be the captain.

“So when the mentor and the coach wants him in the team from very early, that means they are not thinking him as a burden. Even if he doesn’t score runs, he is still their captain, he is their leader,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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