Endings are just new beginnings in disguise. Rohit Sharma’s departure as the captain of the Mumbai Indians marked the end of an era in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The most successful player in the history of IPL, veteran opener Rohit has guided Mumbai Indians to five IPL trophies since ascending the captaincy throne in 2013. Mumbai Indians’ all five title triumphs have come under Rohit’s watch in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Saying goodbye to an era filled with highs and lows, record-time IPL winners Mumbai Indians announced all-rounder Hardik Pandya as their new captain in the lead-up to the 2024 season.

Mumbai Indians’ then captain Rohit Sharma and Gujarat Titans’ then captain Hardik Pandya during the IPL 2023 T20 cricket match, in Ahmedabad(PTI)

The deputy of all-format captain Rohit at Team India, Pandya recently returned to Mumbai Indians in an all-cash deal from Gujarat Titans (GT) prior to the mini-auction in Dubai. Pandya, who was Rohit’s deputy at the 2023 World Cup, became an integral part of Team India’s leadership group after masterminding Gujarat Titans’ title triumph in their debut season. After lifting the IPL trophy with GT, Pandya’s Gujarat side also contested the final with Dhoni’s CSK last season. According to a report, Pandya left GT to join MI under one condition – to lead the franchise in the cash-rich league.

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Hitman era

Rohit’s tenure as the captain of the Mumbai Paltan has been nothing short of extraordinary. Alongside legendary MS Dhoni, Rohit is the joint-most-successful captain in IPL’s history. Even after Dhoni relinquished captaincy in international cricket, the veteran gloveman continued to lead Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL. Rohit, who turned 36 in April, guided Virat Kohli-starrer Team India to the final of the One Day International (ODI) World Cup 2023. Nicknamed the Hitman, the senior batter also powered Team India to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year.

What’s next for Rohit?

Embracing the twilight phase of his illustrious career, Rohit last played a T20I game for the 2006 world champions at the World Cup 2022 in Australia. Averaging just 19.33, Rohit scored 116 runs in six games of the T20 World Cup. The India captain only registered a single half-century in the ICC event last year. A month after India’s exit from the 2023 World Cup, Rohit is yet to clear the air about his T20I future. The 36-year-old will return to lead India in the South Africa Test series. The Indian skipper is rested for the entire white-ball leg of the South Africa tour. Speculation is also rife that the Hitman has already played his final T20I game for the Asian giants.

Change of guard imminent

Leading India in the absence of Rohit following his IPL success with GT, Pandya is tipped to succeed the veteran opener as the next white-ball captain of the national team. Pandya has been India’s T20I captain in 13 of its last 25 games. Thus, MI also opted to break the bank for the former GT skipper, who is already a frontrunner to replace Rohit in the international arena. With Mumbai also identifying Pandya as Rohit’s successor, the change in captaincy will ensure a smooth transition at MI.

Numbers don’t lie

One of the leading run-getters in the history of T20 cricket, Rohit capped off his worst IPL season as a batter in 2022. For the first time since his IPL debut in 2008, Rohit failed to score a single half-century in the 2022 season. The ex-MI skipper scored 268 runs from 14 innings and averaged 19.14 at IPL 2022. MI finished 10th in the 10-team tournament at IPL 2022. The same season saw GT finishing as table-toppers with Pandya making his IPL captaincy debut.

Rohit’s MI made it to the IPL playoffs last season. However, Rohit only amassed 332 runs in 16 games at IPL 2023. The former Mumbai Indians finished behind the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Cameron Green, and Tilak Verma in the MI batting charts. In 158 matches as captain, Rohit won 87 and lost 67 at Mumbai Indians. Rohit will look to regain top form by playing as a pure batter for MI in the T20 World Cup year. A successful season at MI will strengthen his captaincy claim at Team India.