Dhoni gets Khel Ratna – How we treat our cricket heroes

I must thank SP and abisht, who commented on SP’s recent post, for egging me on to write this one (on a Monday evening) particularly on the way we treat our heroes.

MS Dhoni led the a young inexperienced T20 team to the T20 World Cup last September. The young turks won it and returned to a deservingly warm welcome. Cash prizes were showered, apartments promised and state governments competed with each other to confer their own honors and cash prized on their wards. Even that could be justified, but let me ask this question, while readying myself for the rotten eggs, tomatoes and what-not from the Dhoni fans. Does he deserve this? Tendulkar is the only other cricketer to receive the award.

Let us put the T20 World Cup victory in perspective, both the good and bad. While the lines between good and bad might be blurry as it involves the senior-junior debate, either way, something is either good or bad. The good, this allowed some young Indians who were inexperienced players yet promising to show case their talent. It allowed for us to see their performance as a whole, despite the limitations of the format, unencumbered by the so-called seniors and their think-tank. This gave us, the BCCI and the selectors the confidence to trust youth. It gave us fans hope that there might be a better-than-expected-life after the Holy Trinity of Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid. The bad, allow me to call it that, is that we are obsessed with the format and some of the players who brougt this home, primarily Dhoni, Yuvraj and Uthappa. Obsession with the format, gave rise to the massive mela that was the IPL. While I believe that the IPL can do more damage than good, especially for India with the glaring levels of mania about this format, time will give us the verdict.

Moving on, after the T20 victory, what happened (in the ODI scheme of things)? Indian lost a series to Australia, won against a weak Pakistan side, won a series in Australia (largely due to Tendulkar and the young bowlers), lost the Kitply cup and the Asia Cup. To me, this reads just as good or or bad as the early stages of Ganguly or Dravid’s captaincy. Mark my words, early stages. But is this enough to get the Khel Ratna? Shouldn’t the others have received it as well? Why are we obsessed with the T20 World Cup? I realize it’s not Dhoni’s fault that the others weren’t honored with it or that he is now. I’m just questioning the logic. To me it seems like a mass-media reaction. Don’t get me wrong, the T20 World Cup victory was special. To have witnessed it is a memory I will always cherish. It lifted our spirits as a cricketing nation. But does the T20 Victory alone justify Dhoni’s selection here? Given that cricket is a team sport, and that it wasn’t a couple of innings from Dhoni that brought us the cup (unlike the case of Tendulkar, who has single-handedly won us several matches in his early days), I find this a bit undeserving.

But then this is how we treat our cricket heroes. In this context “we” is the BCCI and the Indian media. One day, we go gaga over them, shower praise, prizes, money, titles and the next they are in the doldrums for the same people who buoyed a cricketer to the pinnacle, will push him from that spot only for him to careen downwards at breakneck speed. We are wrong with both the buoy to and the shove from the peak. The current seniors who come to mind are Ganguly and Dravid. Many times I think we don’t deserve good cricketers. Why are we like this? One bad series, heck, two bad innings, and we seek to sack the folks who have served Indian cricket with distinction. I have already written about the slack that we have been cutting for Yuvraj Singh. This isn’t about the fact that for some seniors the time to say goodbye may have come, this is about the fact that we don’t have the grace to allow them a decent passage into retirement. We want instant amends: the batsman scored a duck and a 5; sack him, he is 35/36 anyway and has had his time. It shouldn’t matter whether he is old or young, we need uniform yardsticks applied to all cricketers. Even if that yardstick is two innings, one dropped catch, two instances of lax fielding fielding, or one match without wickets, let it be uniform. As abisht points out (in the link above), we need to go the Aussie way with this. The way they handled Steve Waugh, at least outwardly, was graceful, respectful and fitting for his deeds as one of Australia’s best captains. We may not like some things that Australia’s cricket team or board does, but this we need to learn from them.

Perhaps it’s Dhoni’s day today. But one fears for tomorrow. If the BCCI and the media don’t alter their ways, Dhoni will be the next victim of mass scorn. And given some of the youngster’s skill level at the moment, that embarrassing tomorrow may not be too far.

Rant done. Ducks a bucket of rotten tomatoes from Dhoni’s female fans!

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21 Responses to Dhoni gets Khel Ratna – How we treat our cricket heroes

  1. VMM – the timing never fails to surprise me, MSD even when he’s not part of a win, he wins. Like the last time round, when india won a test (perth?), and it was soon announced that gang n rd were not selected for the odi series.

  2. A Bisht says:

    thank you for giving the link, that line lingered on my mind for so many days

  3. Ottayan says:

    VMM,

    Does Tendulkar deserve it?

    What has he won for us (India)?

  4. rs says:

    If I phrase a slightly different question – which Indian sports personality in the last year made the most impact, and deserved the award most (only in the last year and across other sports…). ie. who do you think the award should have gone to?
    BTW, who else was nominated this year for this award?

    Dravid is the only other player nominated from cricket in the past and who did not get it – but he lost to other sports categories – and I think that is fair – we can’t have cricketers get all the national awards. Maybe MSD should have lost it to someone else as well?

    When they get the praise and money, no cricketer says – I am only human I don’t deserve this, or moderate your praise – so why not let them take their fall as well in stride.

  5. pia says:

    Hi all,

    I believe dhoni truely deserves dis ratna. Don’t forget his hardwork for bringing T-20 worldcup home and many more. If u see, both the finals where we lost, dhoni was the only one pulling the team frm the defeat….. Remember even pakistan’s skipper malik said he was not confident of their win until dhoni is ther on the field. These words means a lot and speaks for dhoni………I am happy for his achievement…………He is the true ratna………. I am sure he will shower us with many more of victories in coming days………At the end of day, victories count……Wat say? Congrats Dhoni and i hope all those who think dat he doesn’t deserve dis will agree with me in dis matter verysoon. Jai Dhoni

  6. let them select them the time of retirement…for all their services…fair pint VM…

    but lets see…

    they reality is still far away from them as i said in my post that all three are still harboring the thoughts of returning to ODI fold…how can expect them that they will decide it on their own when they are still to come to grip with another aspect of the game? how you made them realize that…

    the question is that when one aspect of your game fall (fitness etc…) than your another aspect of the game (consistent scoring) should step up…but now both aspects are falling…and we all know too that best time is behind…they all are playing from their memory…and its not sudden as it is made to believe

    take out stats of their last 10-15 innings and compare them with their overall career avg you will find the marked difference…

    also what you want…all of them suddenly see light and announce that they are retiring from game? no certainly not…coz that will leave a vacuum which will not be filled easily…

    so the best alternate is let badris…rohits…tiwaries etc play with at least 3 seniors out of five…atleast they will grow in the comforts of vast experience…why deny them this…

    we will never know their worth if we wont try them…and if we try them all of sudden with huge vacuum and expectation to fill…we still wont know their true worth…

    best is phasing out…slow transition…this is the truth of life which we will have to face sooner rather than later…even best of organizations do that…

  7. vmminerva says:

    @NC, seriously man! That was sad, what happened after Perth, but I’m sure lot of folk here won’t agree with me on that. What a run of huge luck for MSD. Wonder how long it will last.

    @Abisht, you’re welcome. And thank you for linking from your blog.

    @Ott, I’m not sure when Tendulkar recieved his. My argument is that in his early days, Tendulkar has almost single-handedly won us a good number of matches. So maybe, he deserves it, but what has MSD won us by himself. His team delivered and he is enjoying the benefit of it, solely, in this case.

    @RS, you’re right, I’m not trying to argue that Dravid should have got it too (btw, didn’t know he was nominated) or that there should have been more cricketers. As for who is better deserving this year, I think you would be better equipped to answer that question. I’m following only cricket. πŸ™‚ As for the praise-and-fall, while you’re argument is logical, it isn’t the best thing. Why not be a bit more rational in the first place?

    @Pia, welcome! You sound like a hard-core fan, if you are indeed, I’m surprized you haven’t been harsh at all, after what I’ve said πŸ™‚ As for Dhoni, no one is questioning the spirit that went into bringing the T20 home or his efforts in the finals that we lost. But I don’t think it was all about him either. There are still greater heights to scale before one gets the highest honor, at least IMHO.

    @SP, true, but to make them realize, the board needs to talk to them openly and chart a course that is beneficial for both sides. Not some conniving ad-hoc mechanism. That’s all my concern is.

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  9. rs says:

    vmm: I tried to check to see who else was nominated – so far very, very hard to find out. Several leading shooters have already won it (so maybe a boxer or archer may have been in the running – but otherwise I don’t see anyone else who has excelled in the past year).

  10. Apurv says:

    I am big MSD fan but i believe he is the most over rated cricketer in world cricket. For some reason he is rated very very highly in India but outside India he is considered as an average cricketer.

    He has one test hundred, and no one day hundred outside the Indian subcontinent. He is a average keeper . He is a good captain but tactically he is still learning. To give him a Khel Ratna ahead of Kumble and Rahul Dravid- two of India’s finest cricketers- is disgusting, deplorable and speaks of the materialistic minds of the administrators.

    By the way if winning a world cup is the criteria for winning a Khelratna, then lets give it to Virat Kohli, Mohd Kaif and Reetinder Sodhi. They too have won the under 19 world Cup.

  11. vmminerva says:

    @RS, thanks for the efforts man! Didn’t mean to put you thru it though. Sometimes I think when there are no deserving candidates, they can deciede to skip a year. πŸ™‚

    @Apurv, materialistic indeed. Yeah, lets give it to them too, add Rohit Sharma in there also. He got a 50 in the T20 match against SA and has a Pepsi contract. πŸ™‚

  12. scorpicity says:

    If at all any Indian cricketer deserves it, it has to be kumble for tirelessly winning us countless number of test matches on his own.

  13. vmminerva says:

    @Scorpy, indeed. Gotta love that spirit of Kumble.

  14. ankit says:

    its like every time, you bash one of these guys, i have to come in to take sides.

    i personally don’t think any of the ratnas really make a difference to a dravid or a saurav, and nor does it make a difference to dhoni.

    but the fact is that saurav, rahul, sachin combined could not get us a world cup, i guess they played together in 3 of them.

    and dhoni got the country one, with the team of new faces and discard, that takes courage and sportsman spirit, which is what the khel ratna embodies.

  15. Soulberry says:

    No, Dhoni doesn’t deserve the Ratna at this stage of his accomplishments.

    I’m not surprised he has got it though…we, as Indians, have gradually eroded our awards in every field.

    The reasoning appears to be simple…if we cannot push ourselves beyond the limits (and Indians by and large have many plausible-sounding reasons not to do so), let us bring the awards a notch or two closer to us instead. be it Padma Shris, Bhushans, Vibhushanas…the story is the same. We have scientists who have done precious little and find their awards, we have any number of such on the annual lists.

    That said, it is no mean task in the Indian set-up for a scientist orwhoever to push through the system and create a spark…however minor or insignificant it may be.

    We are then caught up in a puzzle – do we encourage such with awards for their insignificant work but significant spirit, or do we ignore in the wait for a eally major accomplishment an risk snuffing out whatever enthusiasm may reside in the community?

    It isn’t an easy decision.

    I grew up in a community of scientists, in a colony of scientists, where the annual talk in the evening park often veered around to who among them is the frontruner for the year’s awards.

    I then went on to work in a community which is almost as obsessed with such recognition.

    The lack of excellenece in one part of their effort is often made up by relative excellence in another aspect of their efforts.

    In fact, I can say, that this flimsy awarding system itself has also become decadent with time. One of my relatives was awarded one of the Padmas for some signal effort which transformed this nation (when it was a fledgeling repubic) and went on to occupy key positions at the global level…then there’s another who did something but really not on the same scale. They are both awarded the same, albeit decades apart.

    Higher levels of awards should retain an aspirational allurement.

    May MSD get many awards in his life, but I’m sure even he doesn’t value this in his heart of hearts…he knows he got it a little ahead of proper accomplishments. The T20 WC is not small…but not large either. Certainly not large enough for a Ratna which must consider all aspects of the person’s career.He is rather average at the moment in tests (has yet to win one test match for India with his performance), and ODIs we all are seeing are very different from T20 WC.

    Give him a Padma Sri and let him work towards a Ratna. This is like putting a toddler in the CEOs chair.

  16. He is rather average at the moment in tests (has yet to win one test match for India with his performance)…

    i must say i am really surprised by this comments of yours SB…coming from a senior pro…

    i have not seen a test match yet won by single batsman…even sehwag’s herculean effort in last match needed bhajji and ishant…?

  17. Soulberry says:

    No…that’s not what I meant SP. Not a one-man show, but a match turning performance…like Dravid-Lax combo at Kolkatta…which is the best example of what I mean. There have been significant innings in Indian test cricket and Dhoni, who is considered a proper batsman, has yet to figure among them.You could say his Lord’s effort in the second innings saved the test…but that is a moot point which wouldn’t have held scrutiny in today’s era of reviews..but that’s besides the point.

  18. Soulberry says:

    Victoria, now I simply must pin you down, the most loyal Dravid supporter among us, to a future vision in the light of today’s events. Your views couldbe expanded to include all the fab four πŸ™‚

  19. vmminerva says:

    @ankit, you are right in that MSD gave us something the Big 3 with all their prowess couldn’t and I could go on arguing on this, but still, this isn’t justified.

    @SB, “..Higher levels of awards should retain an aspirational allurement…” indeed. You make very valid points on the flimsy awarding system. The first thing I think they must do is increase the time frame. Do we really have to give them every so often. I also agree that though MSD might not have even thought about this award, he doesn’t need to anymore, whatever situation he lands into.

    On a lighter note, I never thought I’d earn the “most loyal Dravid supporter” tag given that in my early cricket watching days I didn’t quite care much about him. On the middle order’s show today, I’m still gathering my thoughts, though I think it will be better to wait till the end of this 3rd Test. While some fatigue (mental or otherwise) is apparent among the Fab-four, I’m tempted to shift some blame on the referral system too.

  20. Soulberry says:

    Fair enough Victoria. It is possible, in fact a little more probable than possible, that the team would rally around from hereon and come back with this series. he same fab 4 will play a role in wresting this test match back.

  21. Soulberry says:

    You have the most nicest things to say about him compared to us all πŸ™‚

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