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Friday, 6 January 2017

# 34 - Dhoni - the man who kept calm and carried on

I have never quite liked MS Dhoni, how could I? I am a ‘Dada’ fan, and in all honesty, you can’t possibly like Saurav Ganguly and Dhoni both (hear that whoosh? That was ‘objectivity’ going out the window).

One look at Dhoni in his debut match, and you knew that the man didn't belong.

From the clearly-pretending-to-be-John-Abraham-hairdo to his less than elegant approach to batting, who would have thought that this man would survive in international cricket, let alone be captain in a couple of years. 

Dhoni may or may not have played an active role in the (early) ouster of Saurav Ganguly, it doesn’t matter, because it’s clear that he did play a part in it. This is Indian cricket after all, unless you are a certain Mr.Wall, if you are the captain, you are the one who calls the shots.    

I remember the die-hard Ganguly fans discussing how every dog has his day, and Dhoni was having his, how his time would run out, sooner rather than later.

And we said the same thing when he won the Asia Cup, the 2011 World Cup, the Champions Trophy, and oh yeah, the IPL too.   

Before we knew it, he had surpassed our beloved Dada’s record of being India’s most successful captain.

We switched to a different tune now.

‘Only succeeds in sub-continent pitches’

‘Where are the quality bowlers?’

 ‘His average is high because he bats too deep’

‘Scared to come up the order’

‘Won the world cup in India, that doesn’t count’

‘How ugly are his shots?’

It was probably after his retirement from tests, that the enormity of what he had done fully sunk in.

Captains don’t just step down and retire, not in India at least. They grab on to their place in the team as if their lives depended on it, unlikely to give up the position unless pried from ‘their cold, dead hands.'

Of course, there were players like Gavaskar, Kumble and Dravid who quit the game on their own terms and while on a high, but that’s as big as the list gets, and to be fair age was not really on their side.

As much as I hate to admit it, it was under the captaincy of MSD that India truly became a cricketing giant, Dada may have initiated the process, but it was Dhoni who saw it through.

Before Ganguly, we played our own brand of calypso cricket, that Pakistan continues to endorse; individual brilliance – yes, highly entertaining – yes, results – meh.   

It might seem like a distant memory now, but people actually wondered why cricketers like R.Ashwin, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja were being given chances; cronies of Dhoni, we smirked, but just like Joginder Sharma in the 2007 T20 World Cup final, Dhoni’s faith in them has paid off. Imagine the Indian team without Ashwin now.

He has the luck of the devil, that Dhoni.
'I make this expression look cool.'


Whatever and whoever he touched, seemed to turn into gold (Ishant Sharma being the notable exception).

Sure, his shots had the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, his ‘helicopter shot’ was basically what kids of our time would informally call ‘aankh bandh karke bat idhar udhar ghumana’. He didn’t have the charisma of Ganguly or the style of Azhar, and while he is quite comfortable speaking in English, he does say things like ‘I think the people in Chennai they just love me.....when I used to go out biking at night, whenever I used to stop in the red light areas and all, they used to always come up to me and speak to me in Tamil, so, I think they really love me....’ Yes, he did say that, and I am guessing he was talking about traffic signals, and not.....whatever else. Have a look, skip to 3:23.



But all that aside, when faecal matter hit the cooling device, more often than not he would see the side through.

No matter how high the asking rate got, he didn’t break into a sweat. Dhoni's self-assured appearance didn’t reek of arrogance, but it was as if he didn’t care about the consequences. He somehow managed to do the impossible, whether as a finisher or as a captain, there was little semblance of logic in his strategy, but he somehow pulled off those crazy moves, be it with respect to that Jogiinder Sharma plan, or promoting himself ahead of Yuvraj in the 2011 World Cup final.

The 2011 World Cup victory ensured that Dhoni's name would be written in permanent ink so far as cricket was concerned, and his achievements, on paper at least, had overshadowed dada’s. 

What was worse though was Sachin saying that Dhoni was the best captain he had played under, such a clear jibe to the prince of Calcutta! 

Unfortunately, Dada himself was prolific in his praises for Dhoni, as if he had forgotten the role Dhoni played in finishing off his career. 

But we couldn’t forget the humiliation. For every dig targeted at Dada, for every joke about his fielding abilities, for every inch of ink space devoted to his weakness against the rising delivery.....vengeance was due. Sure, the wounds were old, but as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.  

We bided our time, still confident that Dhoni’s luck would one day run out, it always does.

We waited for the opportunity. We marked the Dhoni fans, and the people who had made fun of Ganguly, our time to get back was nearing.

And then much to our dismay, he retired from tests.

We wanted him to be kicked out of the team, not retire from the format on his own.

So, the waiting game began again.

And now, just when the talks of making Kohli the limited overs captain were threatening to emerge  – Dhoni does this.

What the hell? Who steps down from captaincy like this?!

It looks like he has once again pulled it off, choosing to let go before being forced to.

And even as I sit here disappointed, upset that I won’t get to make those Dhoni jokes that I have been planning all these years, I have to admit, with this announcement Dhoni has finally mastered the art of the one thing he lacked inside the field; ironically, it's the same skill that Dada displayed brilliantly on the ground, but nowhere near as good off it. 

Timing.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent article. Keep it up!

    - Mohan Chandra (www.mohanchandran.com)

    ReplyDelete
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