Mumbai Indians grabbed headlines last Tuesday when they named Hardik Pandya as the new captain ahead of the IPL 2024 season, replacing Rohit Sharma, who led the franchise to five IPL title glories since taking over the role midway through the 2013 season. Hardik was only traded back to Mumbai from Gujarat Titans, the team he led to back-to-back finals while winning in their debut season of 2022, late last month in an all-cash deal.

Mahela Jayawardene opens up on Rohit Sharma’s role at MI and captaincy transition

While the decision only seemed logical, given Rohit’s age and dwindling batting numbers, and was much expected the moment when Hardik was acquired back, but what left man shocked was the timing of the announcement, with the transition expected to be a much smoother one.

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Speaking to Jio Cinemas on the sidelines of the IPL 2024 auction in Dubai on Tuesday, Mahela Jayawardene, Mumbai Indians’ Global Head of Cricket, admitted that while it was a “tough” and “emotional” decision for the franchise to make, the focus remained on going ahead and build a title-winning squad.

“This is something we have spoken about as a franchise. It is a tough decision, we had to make them. It is emotional, it is tough, to be honest. But everyone who has been part of Mumbai know we cherish every moment a player has contributed, and will contribute going forward. The legacy is something we want to build on and make sure we keep fighting for those wins, those trophies. As a good unit, we have the skillset to do it. That’s the focus going ahead. Probably everyone in their eyes will think it is too soon, but it is a decision we had to make at some point,” he said.

Fans on social media were however utterly disappointed after the big announcement with MI losing hundreds of followers on X and Instagram, while few fans shared videos of them burning the MI jersey.

“It’s fair on the fans as well (to react). I think everyone is emotional and we have to respect that as well. But at the same time, as a franchise, you have to make those decisions,” the Sri Lanka legend said.

What will be Rohit’s role in MI under new captain Hardik Pandya?

The bigger question post the announcement however pertains to Rohit’s role in the side heading into the 2024 season and Jayawardene mentioned how the franchise moved on after the legendary Sachin Tendulkar had relinquished his leadership role and later ensured that the team kept “going in the right direction”.

“Having Ro (Rohit Sharma) in the team, on and off the field to guide the next generation is very important for us. He has been absolutely brilliant. I have worked very closely with Ro. He is a fabulous individual and I am sure he will be part of the legacy who will guide that through. Mumbai have had that in the past too with Sachin (Tendulkar), who played with the youngsters. He gave the leadership to someone else and made sure Mumbai Indians was going in the right direction. It’s the same thing. We had this conversation and everyone is buying into that, so, it’s for us to look forward to the next season,” he said.