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How Hardik Pandya turned boos into cheers in India’s T20 World Cup 2024 run

After being the target of fans’ scorn in the IPL, Hardik Pandya has been on the path to redemption at the T20 World Cup.

Hardik Pandya first heard them in Ahmedabad on March 24 in the opening week of the Indian Premier League 2024. The boos that rumbled around the gigantic Narendra Modi Stadium were understandable, of course. Pandya, the former title-winning Gujarat Titans captain, had returned but as the leader of his first IPL franchise Mumbai Indians.

It was surprising, though, that the heckling continued – four days later – in Hyderabad. The stadium in the southern Indian city was a neutral venue, with no offended Gujarat fans in sight. But perhaps it was merely an anomaly, a lingering hangover.

The Wankhede Stadium would surely have been safer territory as the home of the Mumbai Indians and their loyal supporters, who would surely unite behind their team and its young captain against the visiting Rajasthan Royals. Yet, when Pandya joined Sanju Samson in the middle for the coin toss, there was no mistaking it – the fans were booing their own captain.

It wasn’t too long until Pandya was out in the middle again, this time to rescue his team’s batting collapse at 20-4 in less than four overs. He made more runs than any of his teammates but Rajasthan routed Mumbai by six wickets. It was the five-time champions’ third straight loss and not their last one of the season, where they fared terribly and finished last. The hounding of Pandya, too, was just beginning.

Nearly two months later, the atmosphere at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York was tense. It always is when India play Pakistan. And this was a crucial Group A match in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.

India had scrapped their way to 119