Sun sets on Dhoni

Men, Matters & Memories
M L Kotru

Lucky man, this, our very own Mahinder Singh Dhoni : the man with the Midas touch. Anything he touches turns into gold or let’s say that much lolly in the bank. Yes, even dropped catches behind the stumps. You dare not question his decisions on and off the course. His field placing may at times seem odd or confused but very often we are told that even his oddities click.
Dhoni, if you will, is destiny’s favourite child. How else does one explain his rise and rise on the cricketing firmament. This once little known lad from Jharkhand backwaters, unconventional as much in his looks as with his strokes, the inventor of the helicopter stroke, for one; the one with the flowing mane of a wild horse when he started his cricketing journey on a pathway strewn with shining gold biscuits. Yes, that’s how he began.
The young man who prompted a former Pakistani military dictator  to advise  him against trimming his golden locks, foretelling his fortune, as it were, his millionaire’s mansion, swimming pool et  has indeed been the golden boy of Indian cricket next, perhaps, only to Sachin Tendulkar. But Tendulkar had retained the middle class touch for long : to say no. For instance, he refused to persist with Indian captaincy when it could have been his for keeps, as long as he pleased. I may not have approved of Tendulkar being accorded the nation’s highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, but then I also knew that unworthy politicians had been thus honoured.
Mahinder Singh Dhoni’s is a case apart. For one thing, his long years as the cricket team’s helmsman have added a cache to his name. He has in the eyes of many including, more importantly in the eyes of managers of the cash-rich Indian cricket business, become synonymous with the phenomenal growth of the game and the accompanying riches. The managers of the game are so enamored of the man that they are more than willing to give the Nelson’s eye to his newly acquired, albeit dubious, distinction of being the first among Indian test cricket captain to have lost most tests played on foreign tours. This distinction came his way last week when his team was thrashed by the English side.
Did Dhoni look bothered by the humiliation inflicted on him on the five-Test English tour? Not by a long shot. It was the top order Indian batsmen, the openers, right up top five down, who had failed the team. Even number ten had shown far better resilience in facing up to the fine-tuned English attack, captain Dhoni argued as if he was talking of some other team than the one led by him. Why, his own performances with the bat throughout the tour had been remarkable. The leader was obviously unwilling to accept   India’s humiliation as his own. His field placements, his dropped catches behind the stumps and even his general approach in the five matches, his lack luster leadership, may have surprised most, including the former England captain Nasser  Hussain or Saurav Ganguly and others in the commentary box, but it was only that much water down his back.
Dhonis of the world don’t make mistakes and if they do they are not expected to admit it. All the more so when you know that the great helmsman of Indian cricket and now of the ICC too is your friend and benefactor, R. Sreenivasan the BCCI chief whose IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, Mr. Dhoni captains. Hasn’t Sreeni — maybe I am wrong –made Dhoni a vice president of India Cements, Sreeni’s company, the official owner of the Super Kings.
And was I surprised to see the BCCI recommending Dhoni for the award of the country’s third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan. Never mind his having only this week failed the country at the highest level of international cricket. I know that Dhoni has won the country accolades in the abbreviated forms of cricket, the T20s and the one-dayers, picking up along the way a world cup or two.
Given the BCCIs obsession with the IPL and the limited versions -Sreeni’s obsessions too considering the colossal funds it generates – is it surprising that Dhoni should be held in such high esteem by the BCCI and his employer at both the IPL and India Cements, Mr. Sreenivasan to wit. We have of course been assured by the cricketing boss that there is no conflict of interest or favoritism and who am I to question his word. Sreeni has for all practical purposes absolved his own son-in-law whose conduct as the virtual bossman of the Chennai Super Kings is still under investigation by a Supreme Court appointed commission. And how can one possibly accept the widely expressed view after the debacle in England that the IPL may have contributed to the lowering of the standards of batsmanship in India generally and particularly so among stars of the Dhoni team, homeward bound after the licking they received in England.
I must end this pointless discourse here with a quotation from Lawrence Booth, Editor of the cricket almanac Wisden. Writing in IQ, the Mumbai-based quarterly he says :India- and indeed the rest of South Asia- takes an uncynical pleasure in the game, even at a time when the supreme court has been taking an interest in the corruption and gambling scandal afflicting the Indian Premier League. Sport is nothing without the unmitigated enthusiasm of those who watch and play it.
The pursuit of cricket in these parts has provided me a great way of discovering an endlessly fascinating country and region….. Cricket is the lingua franca, which is simply not the case in England where taxi drivers are more likely to engage you in macho, half informed conversation about Chelsea or Man United. In Indian auto rickshaws it is all about Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians (Chennai Super Kings).One driver assured me that KKR would win the IPL because Shahrukh Khan owned it.
Yet the story of International cricket over, the last decade Lawrence Booth goes on has been the story of India’s self-realisation – sometimes on the field, for sure, but more pertinently in the boardrooms, where the sport’s all-important TV deals are hatched over. To write about the sport these days, you almost need to ignore the cricket altogether.
For my part I shall remember the debacle in England for the sheer disappointment Dhoni and his band of merry-makers including the Virat Kohlis, the Shikhar Dhawans, the Pujaras, the Rahanes have caused to the followers of the game. Cricket is not my religion nor is Tendulkar my God. I have watched the game for over 60 years as something that I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed reading Cardus; I had pleasure of learning my craft from K. N. Prabhu, S. K. Gurunath, Bobby Talyarkhan and many other outstanding followers of the sport. I have witnessed early cricket managers of the country, the Anthony D’ Mellos, the Datta-Rays, Pankaj Guptas, etc. etc. playing ducks and drakes with the game in those early years, not to forget the Rajas and Maharajas, Vizzy, a freak among them setting all the bad precedents both as a cricket captain in the mid 30s and as a top rung cricket boss. A clean up was indicated then and is a necessity now. Can only hope that the Supreme Court and the commission appointed by it will help clean up the Augean stables.
The last word obviously goes to the infallible Mr. Dhoni. Asked after his humiliation at the Oval if he would consider resigning. “You asked me that one in 2011 as well…….” shot back the arrogant Mr. Dhoni.


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