Mumbai Indians have completed the trade for Hardik Pandya
from Gujarat Titans on Sunday, and also traded their allrounder Cameron Green
to Royal Challengers Bangalore in order to increase their purse for the IPL player auction on December 19.
"As the first captain of Gujarat Titans, Hardik Pandya has helped the franchise deliver two fantastic seasons that resulted in winning one IPL championship and one appearance in the final," Titans director of cricket Vikram Solanki said in a statement. "He has now expressed a desire to return to his original team Mumbai Indians. We respect his decision and wish him all the very best in his future endeavours."
The trades were confirmed to ESPNcricinfo by a BCCI official and confirmed by the IPL on Monday.
"The feeling of coming back to Mumbai is very special for a lot of reasons: how my cricketing journey started in 2015 with MI with them noticing me in 2013, you know when I look back and how my span of ten years has been something very special," Hardik said in a video released by the franchise on Tuesday*. "It has not sunk in yet that I am finally back where my whole cricketing journey started. I have achieved all the possible things they have been the most important part of my life."
The franchise ownership group were equally excited.
"We are thrilled to welcome Hardik back home! It's a heartwarming reunion with our Mumbai Indians family," Nita M Ambani, owner of Mumbai Indians, said. "From being a young scouted talent of Mumbai Indians to now being a team India star, Hardik has come a long way and we're excited for what the future holds for him and Mumbai Indians!"
Akash Ambani, owner of Mumbai Indians, said: "Seeing Hardik back at Mumbai Indians makes me very happy. It is a happy homecoming. He provides great balance to any team he plays. Hardik's first stint with the MI family was hugely successful, and we hope he achieves even more success in his second stint."
While Titans' purse will increase by INR 15 crore, which was Hardik's salary, they will also receive from Mumbai an additional transfer fee which they will need to disclose to IPL. Hardik stands to earn up to 50% of that transfer fee from Titans based on the mutual agreement.
The developments occurred after Sunday's 5pm IST deadline for franchises to announce lists of players released and retained
ahead of the auction. At the time of the deadline, Hardik was still part of the Titans and Green was included in Mumbai's list of retained players.
According to the IPL rules, the player trading window starts a month after a season ends, stays open up to a week before the auction date, and then continues up until a month before the start of the next season. So the current trading window is open until December 12, with the auction scheduled for December 19, and it will open again on December 20 up to a month before the 2024 season begins.
Mumbai had released 11 players by the retention deadline, freeing up INR 15.25 crore in their auction purse. While that amount was just about enough to pay for the Hardik trade (INR 15 crore), it would have left Mumbai with very little to spend at the auction. By trading Green to RCB in an all-cash deal, however, Mumbai added another INR 17.50 crore to their purse.
ESPNcricinfo learned Mumbai had approached at least two franchises to do a player swap before the retention deadline but the deals fell through.
When the Titans franchise, owned by global fund manager CVC Capital Partners, came into existence in 2021, they were allowed to pick three players from the pool released by other franchises before the 2022 mega auction. Titans signed Hardik and Afghanistan allrounder Rashid Khan for INR 15 crore each, with Shubman Gill their third pick at INR 7 crore.
Hardik led Titans to the title in 2022, their debut season in the IPL, and was the Player of the Match in the final
against Rajasthan Royals. In 2023, the Titans made the IPL final for the second time
in two seasons, where they came runners up to Chennai Super Kings. In both seasons, under Hardik's leadership, Titans had finished top of the points table in the league stage.
It was at Mumbai, however, that Hardik began his IPL career and developed into one of the best allrounders in the game. Bought for INR 10 lakhs as an uncapped player in 2015, Hardik was a part of Mumbai's title-winning seasons in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Having been retained by them ahead of every auction until 2021, Hardik was finally released ahead of the 2022 mega auction, a decision that came as a surprise. Mumbai were allowed to retain only four players that year and they chose to keep Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard, paving the way for Titans to sign Hardik as their captain.
* The article was updated with Hardik Pandya's quotes at 10am GMT on November 28, 2023
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo