Friday, March 21, 2008


Mahendra Singh Dhoni had looked absolutely composed when India won the last One Day Match against Australia, even as his team mates were going crazy with the excitement of beating Australia in Australia. Every one had then praised him for showing extraordinary maturity and balance, a sign, they said, that India had found just the right man to lead the team.

His recent remarks in an interview on Cricinfo have once again brought to surface the disturbing arrogance that has been visible to me and a few others for quite some now. Speaking on the selection of the team under his captainship, he says: “I was pretty clear about the players I wanted in the side”. “Sometimes, it is very important to send the message across, because sometimes people neglect the answer”, he rubbed it in, to clear the confusion once and for all that he was the one responsible for booting out Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, notwithstanding their recent performances which should have earned them a place in the side.

Dhoni has now publicly verbalized the unmistakably loud message that he had given to the two greats so that no one in the BCCI, the team and indeed the whole country is left in any doubt about who is the unquestionable boss of Indian cricket. If you again see the footage of the moments after India won that match, you may not fail to notice that beneath that cool exterior was the cockiness of the same “message” that he has now broadcast to the world in one of the most naked displays of arrogance ever seen in India cricket.

With just four years of international cricket behind him, what has given Dhoni the courage to show his ugly fangs and obduracy at a time when the Test series against South Africa is about to begin, with Anil Kumble as Captain and Dhoni just another member of the team?

Consider these facts: the 37 year old Kumble has already given up One Day cricket and is not likely to play Test cricket for more than a couple of years at best. Same goes for the Trimurti of Sachin, Sourav and Rahul. Among the remaining players who may play for the country longer, is there anyone at present who poses a threat to Dhoni as Captain? Sehwag, once Vice-captain, has fallen from grace due to his extended poor run that has ensured that he has no chance of becoming skipper. Yuvraj Singh, once seriously thought of as captain material, continues to disappoint with his inconsistent record which may even cost him a place in the One Day side. In the Test team he has in any case failed to find a slot. The others are kids, nowhere near Dhoni as of now and in the near future.

Dhoni the smarty knows that he is an almost impregnable position, and will take over the captaincy of the Test team too, the moment Kumble retires. So, though he may be an ordinary player in Kumble’s side now, he wants to make sure that no one forgets even for a moment as to where the real power lies. His candid remarks on Cricinfo are designed to warn the younger players to remember that they have to suck up to him if they want to keep playing. It is also to tell the senior players that they will be booted out of the Test team too, the moment Kumble steps down.

The BCCI has towed Dhoni’s line and has not criticized him at all. What could be the reasons hidden beneath?

It is possible that through Dhoni, a not so subtle message has been sent out by the BCCI to Kumble: hasten the announcement of your retirement; don’t force us to dump you unceremoniously to make Dhoni the captain of the Test side too. An even louder message is to the seniors: retire with dignity from both forms of the game before you are forced to.

This creation of two virtually antagonistic centers of power in the Test team by the unwise public remarks of poster boy Dhoni does not augur well for the Indian team. The very fact that Dhoni has chosen to time his announcement just before the Test series starts means that he has been a very close observer of Greg Chappell, whose methods which he has adroitly copied to divide and literally terrorize players to dance to his tune.

I had said much earlier that Dhoni had learnt all the wrong lessons from Greg Chappell and had begun to display an obdurate arrogance which will be detrimental to the interests of the Indian team. I had also brought out that India’s victory that Dhoni is dishonestly claiming for himself and his sacking of Sourav and Rahul was actually made possible mainly by the great veteran master Sachin Tendulkar and the unlikely strike bowler Praveen Kumar. Those who were picked as replacements for the dropped players contributed little to the victory. In fact because of their patchy and inconsistent performances, India may well have lost.

As I had said in my previous post, Dhoni is blessed with that one critical element which Napoleon looked for in his Generals: luck. That is why victory has been kissing his feet despite his many mistakes. Success has flooded his head almost completely and his inebriated swagger and disdain for the ability of senior players is going to land him in the only place where you can find drunkards early morning.

Dhoni is most welcome to put his head into whatever he wants to. The BCCI and all cricket lovers have a responsibility to ensure that he does that alone. Team India needs to be rescued before the graph of ascent that the team has seen ever since Sourav Ganguly became the Captain turns into a downward spiral, thanks to one player who has clearly lost his balance.

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