Matches (16)
IPL (2)
Pakistan vs New Zealand (1)
WT20 Qualifier (4)
NSL 4-Day (2)
CAN T20 (2)
Kalahari T20 (2)
DPDCL (3)
Feature

Ahmedabad shows its feelings in Hardik's night of agony

If you needed a reminder of how deep fan loyalty can run in the IPL, this was it

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
25-Mar-2024
You couldn't not see it. It was that obvious.
Even those on the broadcast couldn't not mention it. Kevin Pietersen wondered when an Indian player was last booed at home. Ian Bishop asked what Hardik Pandya could do to win them over. Brian Lara had a ready solution: "Play for India here."
The Ahmedabad crowd vehemently voiced their disapproval of Hardik switching teams, ringing out loud boos every time he was involved in the game. One of the biggest IPL trades in player history may have been okayed by the Gujarat Titans, but their fans were having none of it.
Shubman Gill, Hardik's successor at Titans, received widespread applause and cheer. Every time he implored the crowd to get behind the team - like he did when Mumbai Indians were bossing their chase at 107 for 2 in 12 overs - they responded with fervor.
But they simply couldn't do the same for their former captain. The extent of their pain wasn't visible in the build-up to the match. But the 88,000 fans who turned the setting into a cauldron made sure you felt it.
It was a night unlike any other for Hardik.
The scene of his greatest captaincy triumph - the Narendra Modi Stadium where he lifted the IPL 2022 title with the Titans - became his epicentre of anguish after Mumbai Indians, his new, old team, were pipped in the final over of a thriller that shouldn't have gone so far.
You felt it when Hardik took the ball first up. When Wriddhiman Saha delicately steered him behind point for a boundary to open the match, the decibel levels went up several notches.
You felt it when Hardik switched fields frenetically, asking Rohit Sharma to move from square leg to point, or into pockets you had never seen him in before, like short third.
And you certainly felt it at the start of the final over with Mumbai needing 19 off 6 and Hardik on strike. Those who had begun to make a beeline for the gates only 15 minutes earlier, because the result had seemed a foregone conclusion, huddled near the exit, setting off a massive commotion.
The DJ tried to distract them, but as he went "let's welcome……" they went "oooooh". Or was it "booooooo"?
But within seconds, they were quiet. Hardik did what Pat Cummins had vowed to at the ODI World Cup final last year. As the away captain, there's nothing more satisfying. It was as if Hardik knew Umesh Yadav, tasked to bowl the final over, was going to go short.
The field was set for it: deep cover, deep point, long-on, deep square leg, fine leg. Now, Hardik over time has grown to detach himself from circumstances. He's generally unflappable when the heat is on: taking the game deep, one-on-one with the bowler before unleashing himself, much like his mentor MS Dhoni did to bowling attacks in his prime.
He has this inherent belief that no boundary is big enough to clear. The one at cover was 73 meters distant. But it didn't matter. As Umesh dug it in, Hardik instinctively had a go. The bat was positioned like a sledgehammer. And he nailed it off the middle.
A hush descended around Motera. Of all the situations you want to embrace on a cricket field, you wouldn't have wished to walk in as your team's last hope against a side you had led to a title and a final, at their home ground. Hardik seemed to have embraced it.
Thirteen off five.
Gill stepped in to direct his field. The crowd got behind Umesh as he bowled length. Hardik slapped it to the cover boundary. Surely this wasn't happening? As if it was written in the stars, and the universe couldn't conspire against it. Hardik had absolutely smacked it. He sent the crowd into a stunned silence.
Mumbai needed nine off four.
You could feel the tension. The fans were quiet, stunned by an onslaught they didn't want but one they fully knew Hardik was capable of. These were the same fans who had willed him on in the final moments of last year's pulsating final, when Mohit Sharma began the final over with four pinpoint yorkers that left Chennai Super Kings needing ten runs off two balls.
The fans needed to find their voice again. And they did. One final time. Except, this seemed more of a prayer for Umesh than a boo directed towards Hardik. It was that tense.
Umesh dug it in short, hitting the pitch harder this time and getting it to bounce higher than his earlier attempt. Hardik expected it but could only hit it as far as Rahul Tewatia at the long-on boundary. The crowd found their voice again, just when you thought they had nothing left to give.
If this was at the Wankhede, the Resident Welfare Associations in the vicinity would have lodged a protest. It was that loud. The crowd knew the game was in the bag now. Yet they held their breath until Piyush Chawla was out next ball - to a long hop that he nailed to deep midwicket - to begin celebrating. They were in ecstasy, and Hardik in agony.
After 16 seasons, if you needed reminding that fan loyalty is a thing in the IPL, this was it.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news