M.P. Correspondent / New Delhi

For the past two weeks, an Indian cricket star has been booed heavily by fans in packed stadiums across the country.

Hardik Pandya, captain of the Mumbai Indians team in Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's richest cricket tournament, has faced booing crowds during the team's games in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and even in home ground, Mumbai.

Traded from his earlier side Gujarat Titans, Pandya has replaced India's all format skipper Rohit Sharma at the Mumbai Indians for the 2024 IPL, which began on 23 March. The 30-year-old seam-bowling all-rounder had previously been part of four title-winning campaigns under Sharma's leadership at Mumbai Indians, spending his first seven IPL seasons there until 2021.

For many, the move from Mumbai came as a surprise. The franchise has a history of storied captains. Pandya's appointment marks Mumbai's fifth captain since its inception in 2008, succeeding the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, and Rohit Sharma.

However, Mumbai fans have not taken to it lightly. They believe Sharma - the competition's joint-most successful captain, alongside MS Dhoni - didn't give up the captaincy and was displaced. And they are letting Pandya know how they feel.

The Mumbai captain encountered a hostile reception from fans last week in Ahmedabad when facing his former team, Gujarat Titans, whom he lead to successive IPL finals, including the 2022 title. The booing continued as Mumbai faced Sunrisers Hyderabad in the southern city of Hyderabad.

At Mumbai's home game against Rajasthan Royals (RR) at Wankhede Stadium on Monday night, Pandya faced jeers from fans during the toss, prompting commentator Sanjay Manjrekar to ask the crowds to "behave".

That didn't quite placate the crowd though. The boos returned when Pandya couldn't latch on to a difficult catch and the only time the jeering turned to applause was when Pandya hit a few boundaries. It didn't help that Royals won the game, handing down Mumbai's third back-to-back defeat.

Ravichandran Ashwin, the spin maestro who plays for Rajasthan Royals, has chastised crowds for their behaviour and blamed India's "fan wars" for the booing that Pandya has been subjected to.

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