GAME PLAN: Dhoni — Villain, loser, saviour and star

Jaideep Ghosh

Cricket-Ind-vs-SAF-DhoniStrange game, this cricket. Not too long ago, in Kanpur, India were all set to win, and lost. All hell broke loose.

This was sacrilege! How can you lose with so many batsmen still left and only seven-odd runs to get in the last over? This is the end for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, surely. He isn’t the same superstar he was. Time for him to go.

The drama didn’t stop there. There was something rotten in Denmark, all said. Dhoni wasn’t getting along with Virat Kohli. Oh, this is a disaster!

Cut to Indore. The accolades just wouldn’t stop! Dhoni is the man! He is India’s saviour, he is a winner! The end? Don’t be ridiculous!

Well, that’s cricket for you, ladies and gentlemen. The on-field drama is just a trailer for the real plot, played in the media, then replayed in the tea shops of Midnapore, the by lanes of Saharanpur, the college campus in Gadag or the bus stand in Kota.

So much is made of everything in and around this game. Every match lost is a disaster; every series loss is a calamity. On top of that, there is no dearth of conspiracies and it’s a perfect funnel to pour all the ire at the ‘guilty’ parties.

So there was a certain lack of cohesion, a little bit of discord? But isn’t that the case in our homes, if there is a situation we are not happy with? Or at work?

Of course it is. But the thing is, that’s all fine, since that is not cricket.

It would be funny, if it wasn’t so silly.

But that’s the way it is. India win, the team is the best in the world. They lose, they are a fractured, inefficient rabble, led by an unimaginative loser who didn’t win us the World Cup. Two, in fact.

The average cricket fan’s ire is understandable, since they have been fed a soup of excellent and terrible. Here is a side that has, in the past, pretty much won everything in sight, with essentially the same personnel. So naturally, they are expected to win everything.

But that’s not how it works, does it? It’s not a copyright. There are other people who might want to win the silverware.

As it turned out, India began losing. The World Cup didn’t come home, irrespective of whatever silly jingles the host broadcasters could rustle up.

That was still manageable. After all, we by and large don’t win anything in Australia. So it was par for the course.

The crisis for Dhoni really began in Bangladesh. Our neighbours were on a serious high in the 50-over format and they knocked out a full-strength Indian team.

That is not on. We don’t lose to Bangladesh. It was like a law of nature, forgetting that India have lost crucial games to Bangladesh earlier too.

Then Kohli took India to Sri Lanka and snared an elusive – a Test series win away from home!

Then Dhoni returned and promptly lost two T20s and an ODI. Two of these three games were fairly winnable and Dhoni failed at the vital end of the innings.

That was enough. He was villain Number One, with the multiplier of poor performances, poorer results and mystifying captaincy pushing him plumb into the minus column.

Sack him! He’s a loser!

Make no mistake, there is enough reason to demand that Dhoni be at least questioned before he is found guilty. But then, that’s the lot of every captain of every team of consideration. Barring the Indian football team.

Also, there are things wrong for sure. It can’t be that the side keeps losing and everything in the dressing room would be fine.

It’s all fine for team director Ravi Shastri to push his jaw forward and state in an unequivocal, stentorian voice that any rumours of trouble are equine excrement.

A booming voice doesn’t make a person right. At the same time, a poor spell with the bat doesn’t make a player bad. We lost most matches over the past couple of years thanks to our bowling.

On Wednesday, it clicked, and India won, defending a moderate score which came after Dhoni scored 92 off 86 balls.

There are two ways that a side can win. Either they are on a streak, which India are not, or they push the opposition, like they did at Indore.

Also, the doomsday artistes need to find some chill pills. Not everything has a dark side. It could well be that the team is bickering like a family that is in trouble.

Like that family, they will pull together when things are back on track.

One more thing. This team is inconsistent, so no use beating your collective selves to death about it. They will win some, they will lose a lot. It’s just ODIs anyway.

Win the Tests. Then all will be well.