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Mumbai Indians' captain Hardik Pandya (left) speaks as coach Mark Boucher look on during a press conference in Mumbai on Monday. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Hardik Pandya, the new leader of Mumbai Indians, has laid out norms as the five-time champions bid to start a new era in the Season 17 of the Indian Premier League, which begins in Chennai on Friday.

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For the all-rounder, there are no half measures. The team comes first and the individual glory takes a backseat. In his first address to the media as the captain of Blue and Gold franchise, the 30-year-old also laid to rest the rumours about the rift in the team due to his appointment as skipper.

No magic wand

There is no magic wand to turn Mumbai Indians’ fortunes around in a day or two. It requires time and Pandya is tasked with bringing about the change in fortunes. In the last three years, the five-time champions have made it to playoffs only once and also finished last among the 10-team league the previous season.

Handling an IPL team is no easy task. The two-month long season takes a huge toll on the players and keeping them injury free is a real challenge. Pandya understands the strenuous job having already served as captain with his previous team — Gujarat Titans, where he saw two successful years including a title win.

“I have a firm belief that you should be playing for the team. Everyone can have goals, everyone can have dreams but being honest and being true to your team is the most important thing for me,” said Pandya adding that a good performance in IPL will always be a stepping stone to the national team. “We will make sure that we serve Mumbai Indians to the best of our ability and in that process if someone is staking a claim I will be very happy.”

Though Pandya doesn’t promise any miracle overnight, he still believes his team will put in the best show possible. “You should focus on the process. I can’t win the IPL tomorrow. It can only happen a couple of months down the line. What we can focus on in those couple of months is how we prepare, how we take care of each other, how we make sure we know each other and out. The only thing we can promise is that we will play a brand of cricket that everyone will enjoy.”

Hardik Pandya said he will always have Rohit Sharma's backing. Image Credit: Source: IPL

'No rift'

Clearing the air on the equation he shares with former skipper Rohit Sharma, Pandya said: “First of all it will be no different. He will be the first one to help me out if I need any help. At the same of time he is the captain of the Indian team. Everything the IPL team has achieved was under his leadership and I’m just carrying it forward. There will be no awkward moment, only nice feeling. I played my whole career under him and I know he will always have his hand on my shoulder,” said Pandya adding the initial backlash from fans for appointing him as skipper of Mumbai Indians didn’t really affect him. “I focus on the sport. We are grateful to the fans. Lot of fame, lot of love come from them. I respect their opinion and at the same point I focus on my role.”

Pandya said his return to Mumbai Indians as a captain was a dream and was really looking forward to start his new role. “It feels wonderful to be back. Never thought that 10 years down the line I’d be captaining Mumbai Indians. The feeling is amazing. Very excited for the season ahead and to play again with my old fellows. We have got a lot of success together.

Pandya said his return to Mumbai Indians as a captain was a dream and was really looking forward to start his new role. Image Credit: Source: IPL

“I’m back where everything started. It is a very surreal feeling because everything that I have known from 2015 to now has been because of this team. My life completely changed when I made my debut in 2015. I’m very grateful to have reached here and playing again at a ground that is my favourite from day one,” he added.

Providing details on his fitness, Pandya said he will be playing as an all-rounder this season and had no issues. “I have no issues with my body. I plan to play all the games possible.”

But he said he opted out of the 50-over World Cup last year as he felt he was not completely up there after suffering a freak ankle injury while trying to stop the ball in his follow through against Bangladesh. “I was pushing hard to get fit for the semi-finals and final, but the injury only got worse. Playing for India is special and India deserves the best. So I didn’t feel it is right to play with 50 per cent fitness.”

Right direction

Head coach Mark Boucher alluded to Pandya bringing in fresh ideas as captain and said his role was to enable Pandya to get the best out of the team. “I’ll be trying to help him out as much as I can and get everyone going in the right direction. I’m going to support the captain as much as possible.”

While there is also a positive news about the return of Jasprit Bumrah, the wrecker-in-chief of England in the Test series and one the top bowlers for India in the 50-over World Cup in November, Twenty20 World No 1 Suryakumar Yadav could miss the Mumbai Indians’ opener against Gujarat Titans on March 24.

SKY, as he is popularly known, last played in the Twenty20 series in South Africa when he twisted his ankle. Since then the 33-year-old batter has been out on the sidelines and also underwent surgery in January in Germany.

Boucher confirmed that the team management is awaiting an update from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) regarding Surya’s injury. “Surya at the moment is on the guidance of the Indian cricket team as well. Just waiting for updates on that. I don’t like to micromanage. We’ve got a world class medical team that’s in control of all of that. Yes, the past, we have had a few fitness issues. We are always going to be in that sort of domain of having fitness issues as other teams are as well,” the former South African stumper said, leaving a lot of doubt on his participation in the opener.