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Mumbai Indians, 5-time champions, are off to a poor start to the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 season having lost their first two matches of the campaign. Under the captaincy of Hardik Pandya, who replaced Rohit Sharma at the helm, MI have found it tough to click together as a unit. As Mumbai awaits their first win of the campaign under Hardik’s leadership, fans continue to voice their frustration at the removal of Rohit as the skipper. As a result, on Sunday, “Ultimate GOAT Rohit Sharma” became one of the top trends on X (formerly Twitter).

Fans have been relentless in expressing their frustration at the fact that MI decided to replace captain Rohit with Hardik. The fan wars, in fact, have become so intense that India and Rajasthan Royals spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also had to speak up on the topic, urging those criticising Hardik to stop.

But, the social media trends don’t suggest fans are listening. Here are some examples:

Ashiwn, in a video on YouTube, has been vocal in his support for Hardik, asking fans of Rohit to stop abusing the MI skipper.

“Fan wars should never go this ugly a route. One should remember which country these players represent – our country. So, then what warrants a cricketer getting booed? “I don’t understand. If you don’t like a player and boo a player, why should a team come out to issue a clarification,” Ashwin said in his YouTube Channel while answering a question from one of the viewers.

Pandya had to go through a hostile round of booing during their season opener against his former side Gujarat Titans as the fans vented their sense of betrayal.

The 30-year-old also suffered a similar treatment by fans at Hyderabad, a neutral venue, in the match against the Sunrisers.

“This is cricket, and there is a prevalent cinema culture. I know there are things like marketing, positioning and branding. I agree with all that. But I don’t believe in all this, but it’s not wrong to indulge in either,” said Ashwin.

The experienced off-spinner said neither the player nor the Mumbai team management owed an explanation on the issue, but urged the fans to be more rational in their behaviour.

“Neither has any role to play. Neither the franchise not the player has a role to play in this at all. I think the responsibility and the onus lies on the fans,” he said.

Ashwin, who recently completed the double of 100 Tests and 500 wickets, said toxicity has been increasing among Indian fans as compared to fans from some other cricketing nations.

“Have you seen this happen in any other country? Have you seen fans of Joe Root and Zak Crawley fight? Have you seen fans of Joe Root and Jos Buttler fight? “Have you seen Steve Smith and Pat Cummins fans fight in Australia,” Ashwin pointed out.

The Chennai man also brought out examples from the past when legends like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly played under MS Dhoni, a much younger cricketer then, setting aside their egos.

“Sourav Ganguly played under Sachin Tendulkar and vice versa. These two have both played under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy. These three have played under Anil Kumble and all of them have played under Dhoni.

“When they were under Dhoni, these players were cricket jambhavans (veterans). Dhoni too played under Virat (Kohli),” he said.

With PTI inputs

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