Hardik Pandya's recent comments in praise of former Team India captain and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) legend MS Dhoni seemed to have triggered an intense debate among former cricketers about the possibility of a rift in the Mumbai Indians (MI) dugout, with Australian legend Adam Gilchrist one of the main believers of that theory.


Hardik Pandya's appointment as the leader of the Mumbai Indians has been controversial, to say the least. After the Mumbai-based franchise announced the sacking of their most successful captain Rohit Sharma, with Hardik Pandya taking over from him in the wake of his arrival from Gujarat Titans, fans reacted to the development so much so that the team lost millions of followers across social media.


While the Mumbai Indians management has backed Hardik Pandya to the hilt, the results of the side in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) haven't gone his way, with the former five-time champions languishing in the bottom three on the table.


Former cricketers, including the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, have not only raised questions about Hardik Pandya's captaincy but his poor batting and bowling have put extra pressure on him. 


In the last match against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Hardik Pandya's below-par bowling against MS Dhoni during the concluding stages of their innings earned him the wrath of Sunil Gavaskar.


Interestingly, Hardik Pandya bowled the final over of CSK's innings to his mentor and ex-India captain MS Dhoni, who belted him for three consecutive sixes. Eventually, MS Dhoni's maximums proved to be the difference between the two sides, as CSK won the game by 20 runs.

“Probably the worst kind of bowling that I've seen for a long, long time. It almost looks like I've had this embrace with my hero. I've got a bowling kind of deliveries that he's gonna hit for sixes. One 6 is fine. The next one again a length ball when you know that this batter is looking for a length ball to hit. The third ball again, a full toss on the leg side and he's looking for it and hits it for a 6. Absolutely ordinary bowling, ordinary captaincy,” Sunil Gavaskar said on Star Sports. 

Hardik Pandya's overall figures in the IPL 2024 don't look impressive at all – he's managed to score only 131 runs at a mediocre average of 26.20 with the highest score of 36 in the six matches he's played in the tournament so far.


In the bowling department, the Gujarat-born all-rounder has hardly bowled and when he has taken up the ball, he has gone for plenty of runs.


He has picked just three wickets in six games but what would be worrying the Mumbai Indians management is his economy rate. In the 11 overs, Hardik Pandya has bowled, he has been virtually clobbered by opposition batters, allowing them to cherry-pick him for sixes and boundaries. The result is that he has given away runs at 12 per over.


Moreover, the treatment meted out to him by the fans in the IPL, both in Mumbai and elsewhere, seemed to have had an adverse effect on Hardik Pandya's performances.


Wherever he has gone, the fans have booed him with Rohit Sharma chants, reminding everyone that the 37-year-old is still the most loved Mumbai Indians player, not just at the Wankhede Stadium but across India.


Against this background, Hardik Pandya recently highlighted that MS Dhoni's calm demeanor and cricketing brain were helping CSK achieve the success that they have achieved in recent years. 


Last season, MS Dhoni guided CSK to their fifth title, a joint record in the competition, and this year, they are very much in contention to make the playoffs despite the former India skipper relinquishing leadership duties at the franchise. He handed over the captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad, who continues to rely on MS Dhoni's inputs on the field.


“There's a man behind the stumps who tells them what's working,” Hardik Pandya said after CSK's victory over the Mumbai Indians.


Hardik Pandya's statement on MS Dhoni though appeared to have signaled that all was not well in the Mumbai Indians camp, at least Adam Gilchrist thought so.

“That line about Dhoni is interesting. It tells that maybe he is feeling a bit of a lone wolf at the moment. Maybe it is all having a bit of an effect because he is having the feeling that he has not got support around him. But his observation of the opposition is that hang on, he (Gaikwad) has got the support there, an experienced one obviously. It tells me a bit about the mindset of Hardik at the moment and the uncertainty and hesitation in the MI dugout,” Adam Gilchrist told Cricbuzz.


“High-profile teams are a victim of their own success. There are often trades that come out of the blue, and fans feel like, ‘hand on, we are not invested in this'. They feel that they are part of this big picture and hence feel blindsided. The way this Hardik traded came out of nowhere and the transition from Rohit to Hardik…whether Rohit was happy or not or if he was considered or not. So that is where this feeling is coming,” he noted.