Australian star batter Steve Smith has advised Hardik Pandya to simply “block out” the constant jeers and boos the new Mumbai Indians skipper is receiving from spectators at the IPL so far, as they are “all irrelevant”. Hardik, who replaced five-time IPL-winning captain Rohit Sharma as skipper this season, had a dismal start to his captaincy tenure as MI suffered back-to-back defeats.

On top of the two losses, the former Gujarat Titans skipper was booed by fans at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad — the venue of MI’s first two matches — as they were clearly not happy with the way Rohit was removed from captaincy.

“I’d try and just say, to block it out, it’s all irrelevant,” Smith, who has faced abuse from fans across the world for his role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, told ESPNcricinfo.

“No one outside knows what you are going through. No one (from outside) is in that change room.” Smith, who was called “cheat” by fans during the 2019 ODI World Cup in England, feels all these abuse will come as a big surprise for Hardik as he is getting it from his Indian fans at home.

“Personally, for me, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t care. I don’t pay any attention,” said Smith, who had to resign as Rajasthan Royals captain in 2018 after the ball-tampering scandal.

“You know it’s all white noise, but certainly players do hear things and everyone’s entitled to their own emotions and how they respond to those. So is it affecting him (Hardik)? Maybe. It’s possible. He probably hasn’t experienced that before in, in any walk of life. So it’s natural, I suppose, and particularly being in India and a star Indian player, to be in that position where some fans are booing you, it’s certainly something he wouldn’t have experienced.”

Hardik had led Gujarat Titans to IPL title triumph in their maiden season in 2022 after he was released by Mumbai Indians. However, last November, he returned to Mumbai Indians via a monetary trade and was soon made the captain, replacing Rohit, which did not go down well with the Indian captain’s fans.

“Hardik is in the middle of a challenging time, losing the first two games their IPL season. It’s a big one for him,” said Smith, who had replaced MS Dhoni as captain of now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017.

“He’s filling big shoes with Rohit Sharma, who’s been the most successful captain (with Dhoni) in IPL history, lifting five titles, and it hasn’t started well for him.”

MI will face Rajasthan Royals on April 1 next at home and Smith is waiting to find out how Hardik is received by the local fans at the Wankhade Stadium.

“So he’s under a little bit of pressure at the moment and it’ll be interesting to see what the reception’s like in their first home game at Wankhede in a couple of days’ time.”We have heard a few boos going around at the grounds, which… that’s been disappointing from my aspect. But I’m intrigued to see what the reception’s like in Mumbai. We know how big a star Rohit is and how much he is loved inside that stadium.”

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