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!