The Mumbai Indians languishing at the near bottom of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 has now taken on a more insidious tone. It threatens to rupture, if not derail, team India’s performance at the ICC Twenty20 World Cup 2024 even as a change of guard not far in the offing.

What does a team do when their captain and vice-captain don’t see eye-to-eye and worse still, both seem to be suffering from the lack of form? What does it say when the feud, largely not of their own making, now threatens to tear the very fabric that keeps the team together – harmony and respect for hierarchical structures?

As India’s team for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup was announced, the buzz doing the rounds was already that all rounder Hardik Pandya’s inclusion did not come about with the approval of either the captain Rohit Sharma or chief selector, Ajit Agarkar.

Instead, while it was widely reported that pressure from within the BCCI ranks forced the inclusion even as Agarkar mentioned the like-for-like options when it came to the all-rounder, the even more diabolical reasoning has been that Pandya’s inclusion and his appointment as India’s vice-captain despite being out of form was with an eye to replacing Rohit Sharma as captain post the World Cup.

What is not hard to concur with the other saga doing the rounds, and from the supposed leak that made the social media where Rohit Sharma already seemed resigned to fate and history with his time with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, is that the 37 year old could be looking similarly to his time with the Indian team, at least in the shorted format, not because of the age factor but because of the ways things have unfolded ahead of the selection, not unlike at MI ironically.

To say this is not an ideal situation going into a World Cup would be an understatement. That said, the past few years have suggested that the BCCI has done little, if not directly contributed to, the ill will and unease between players and support staff as was evident in the Virat Kohli- Rohit Sharma captaincy saga. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” will continue to remain the theme.

In keeping with that tradition then, India have a miffed captain on their hands in addition to having a coach who is set to bow out at the end of the upcoming ICC Twenty20 World Cup with a fair degree of controversy already gathering ground over who will replace them with many contending both are foregone conclusions as far as the BCCI insiders are concerned.

The BCCI seems to have its eyes firmly on V. V. S. Laxman, currently head of the National Cricket Academy, to replace Rahul Dravid as team India’s head coach. It has led many to criticise what many consider a farcical gesture on the part of the BCCI to even invite applications for the coaching position.

As far as India’s captaincy goes, it would appear that the current disagreement with the team has its seeds in the way things have unfolded at the Mumbai Indians.

Hardik Pandya’s meteoric rise as captain of the Gujarat Titans, leading them to two IPL finals, contributed to the former MI player returning to the team in an all cash trade. But the tables were turned when Pandya not only rejoined the Mumbai Indians franchise but also was named captain. It ended Rohit’s ten year reign rather unceremoniously, this despite the team winning five titles, has started out as a rather exorbitant team unable to piece themselves as a unit.

The IPL has often been attributed to bridging the divide between cultures and bringing international cricketers together in a spirit of bonhomie. However, the fissures presently in the Mumbai Indians contingent seem to suggest that the IPL has only fuelled drama between India’s national level players with the repeated rivalry often on blatant display. It seems that the recent drama for the five time champions takes the cake.

The Mumbai Indians, the only other successful franchisee besides the Chennai Super Kings, languishing at the near bottom of the IPL 2024 points table should have been a story in itself. To be the first team to be eliminated from even making the playoffs should have said enough about the turmoil that began from when the Mumbai Indians franchisees decided to make an unpopular change of guard.

A leaked video showing a rather irritable and equally nonchalant Rohit Sharma, captain of the Indian cricket team and deposed captain of the Mumbai Indians for the 2024 season, talking to Abhishek Nayyar, the assistant coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders has sent tongues wagging.

The exact description and objective of the leaked conversation is unclear. However, it is quite apparent that the former Mumbai Indian captains, who was part of the fabric of the team that lifted a record five IPL titles, couldn't care less who was listening in as he seemed to suggest as, the match between the two teams was delayed over rain at the Eden Gardens, that this would be his last season with his home franchisee.

This might have been a fact that both his franchisee and himself would concur on since the Mumbai Indians have done little publicly to assuage the two players in question or their miffed fans. Besides, a major reshuffle is on the cards at the IPL auction next year and one can only speculate what the top management is thinking of their own decision to appoint Pandya and whether they intend to continue with him and in the same role.

If it would have caused some concern previously, it would appear the leaked video has only confirmed what has been the worst kept secret in the IPL season 2024. Now it adds to the growing rift that worrisome form and India are top heavy in that department.

Rohit Sharma’s form is waning as the IPL has progressed and Pandya is still slowly finding his feet. With the communication between leaders said to be next to nil within the franchisee, one wonders if a spill-off is on the cards for India at the World Cup.

Had Pandya not been appointed vice captain by the powers that be, would a captain unhappy with the selection of a player still include him in the playing eleven? Might the appointment in a leadership role be Pandya’s saving grace when the two men are said not to be seeing eye-to-eye? Has the board, by forcing its hand, handed the captain an excuse well ahead of time should results not go the way of the team?

With change a foregone conclusion, is there enough motivation and fire to prevent the seeming disdain and mental lethargy that seems to have crept up into the Mumbai Indians dressing room from pervading the Indian dressing room?

An unhappy and divided dressing room leads to disastrous results. The concern now is that given the current state of affairs, team India could well be looking at a stoic but disturbed set of 11 players taking the field, with the captain and coach looking into the sunset. This does not make for a very promising World Cup showing. Can team India flip the switch?