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Fan wars are taking an ugly turn: Ashwin

Veteran India and Rajasthan Royals off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has come out in support of Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya after the latter has been at the receiving end of vicious trolling and booing, saying the fan wars are taking an ugly turn in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024.

In a livestream on his YouTube channel, a user asked Ashwin, “whether it is time for Mumbai Indians to issue a statement (on making Hardik the captain), saying it was a poor transfer from the management?” In response, Ashwin said, “Neither has any role to play. Neither the franchise nor the player has a role to play in this at all. I think the responsibility and the onus lies on the fans.”

Following his switch from Gujarat Titans to Mumbai Indians in what has been seen as a coup and replacing Rohit Sharma as captain ahead of IPL 2024, Hardik was mercilessly subjected to boos and jeers by fans, who also used a discriminatory term for him at times, during the five-time champions’ first two games in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, where they ended up on losing side.

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Further talking about Hardik facing fans’ ire in both of MI’s matches so far, Ashwin said, “Have you seen this happen in any other country? Have you seen Joe Root and Zak Crawley fans fight? Or have you seen Joe Root and Jos Buttler fans fight? It’s crazy. Have you seen fans of Steve Smith and Pat Cummins fight in Australia? I’ve said this many times. This is cricket.”

“This is a cinema culture. I know there are things like marketing, positioning, and branding. I don’t deny it. I don’t believe in all this on my side but it’s not wrong to indulge either. Fan wars should never go in this ugly route. One should remember which country these players represent – our country. So, then what warrants a cricketer getting booed?”

Ashwin also called for the booing of cricketers to stop, citing previous examples of how Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid played under each other’s captaincy as players and how the trio later played under the leadership of M.S. Dhoni in the Indian team. “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? We act like this has not happened before. (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 (giants). Dhoni too played under Virat.”

“We need to get our act together. Do you know what the problem is? We are all happy to sit in our houses, look outside, and have someone else pick up the trash. We don’t want to bother doing it ourselves. We should correct ourselves first. This is real-time sports. Real-time sports have real-time emotions.”

“How we go beyond that, counter it, and find a balance to play cricket is what this is all about. A real sport can never be compared to cinema. Heroes and hero-worships are great. I am all for it. Enjoy what you like about your favourites but not at the cost of putting another player down. This is one thing I’d love to see disappear from the face of the earth in our country,” he concluded.

Mumbai Indians, who are yet to get off the mark in the points table, will play their first home match of IPL 2024 against the Sanju Samson-led Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday evening.

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