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Hardik tipped to return to Mumbai Indians?

Hardik, who is nursing an ankle injury that he sustained during the World Cup, was hesitantly released by the MI franchise ahead of the 2022 mega auction as Mumbai were allowed to retain only four players that year.

Hardik tipped to return to Mumbai Indians?

Hardik Pandya file image. (Photo: Sandip Mahankal/IANS)

In the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL), two incumbent captains have been traded so far, when Ravichandran Ashwin moved from Punjab Kings to Delhi Capitals, and Rajasthan Royals traded Ajinkya Rahane also to Delhi Capitals, in 2020. Hardik Pandya could become the third if he moves back to the Mumbai Indians, after having captained the Gujarat Titans to the title in their inaugural season in 2022, and making the final a second successive time in 2023.

Hardik, who is nursing an ankle injury that he sustained during the World Cup, was hesitantly released by the MI franchise ahead of the 2022 mega auction as Mumbai were allowed to retain only four players that year. Now that an opportunity has come MI’s way to get back the all-rounder, whom they developed after buying him as an uncapped player in 2015, the move is highly likely.

According to reliable sources, Mumbai Indians will be paying Rs 15 crore to buy back the services of the star-allrounder, besides an undisclosed transfer fee to the Titans. Hardik could earn upto 50 per cent of the transfer fee. However, neither of the franchises is yet to release an official statement on the deal.

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For Mumbai, left with just Rs 0.05 crore in their purse, trading Hardik back could force them to release some of their players ahead of the IPL auction in Dubai, next month. Franchises will get an additional Rs 5 crore in their purse for the forthcoming auction. The retention deadline expires on Sunday (November 26).

In his two-season stint at the Gujarat franchise, Hardik scored 833 runs in 30 innings. He took 11 wickets for them. However, it has been at the Mumbai Indians dugout, where Hardik started his career in 2015 as an uncapped all-rounder and rose to become one of the mainstays of their core side. Until 2021, he was retained by the MI franchise ahead of every auction. He was part of the side’s title-winning seasons in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

In 2021, when the Titans came into existence as one of the two new additions along with the Lucknow Super Giants, the new franchises were allowed to pick three players each from the pool released by other franchises before the mega auction. And with MI releasing Hardik, Titans instantly signed the all-rounder and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan for Rs 15 crore each, while Shubman Gill was their third pick at Rs 7 crore.

Now with Keiron Pollard, one of MI’s four retained players back in 2021, taking the role of a mentor, and the other three in Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah going strong, the addition of Hardik back in the dugout will surely boost MI’s leadership group.

And if the trade happens, Hardik’s return to the side could well be seen as a smooth transition in the MI leadership role, as a possible successor to Rohit Sharma.

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