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When I watched Mahendra Singh Dhoni start off against Sri Lanka in the third ODI in such a belligerent fashion, I thought, "if this guy can stay for half an hour, it'll be good entertainment. Whether India wins or loses this match, it'll be good fun." When he went on and on, I thought "I just get the feeling we are on to something here!" (imagine Harsha Bhogle's voice at this point). By the time the match was over and Dhoni had completed his single handed rout of a demoralized Sri Lanka, it was a mixture of immense pleasure and awe at having witnessed one of the most belligerent knocks in One Day Cricket. Beating Adam Gilchrist's ODI record for the highest score for a wicket-keeper batsman was no joke. Dhoni has certainly written his own rules in International cricket and it's probably his ticket to Test cricket as well as he very unsubtly pointed out at the post-match presentation.
I'll just add a couple of things here. First from a purely cricketing point of view, I think Dhoni is one of those players you don't tamper with. Sure, it's easy to praise the guy when he's got a huge century playing so aggressively. But it shouldn't blind us to the fact that he's going to have days when he won't score at all. It's natural that a guy playing with such aggression cannot score big runs every time he steps in to bat. Unfortunately, this century might well alter things for Dhoni. The typical Indian reaction to his knock was one of euphoria, but then the expectations will also rise higher the next time he walks in. There will be experts calling for Dhoni to "play with responsibility and utilize his talents properly." There will also be those who feel he should continue to "play his natural game." Whatever may be their advice, I think Dhoni should be left well alone to do his own thing. For the good of Indian cricket, nobody should ever tamper with his style, technique and most importantly, mindset. Fortunately, we are in 2005 and experience has taught us how to handle such players. When Virender Sehwag first made his way into the Indian team, he brought such a refreshing attitude which endures to this day. There were some who felt that he should "tone down" his game, but luckily he has stubbornly refused such advice and his aggressive attitude has survived up to now. In the 1990s, it might well have been a different story. In 2005, we welcome such players in Indian cricket. No longer are we obsessed with technique, foot movement, finesse and so on. In the era of Mahendra Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Virender Sehwag, we've learnt to accept that it's the results which count, not the means. It doesn't matter in One Day cricket whether a guy scores a boundary off an outside edge slashing wildly or scores it off the most beautiful, picture perfect cover drive. Runs are runs and that's what matters ultimately.
There is another issue which I want to raise here. It's about rewarding our cricketers for such brilliant performances. During the post-match presentation, when Ravi Shastri announced the special cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh for Dhoni's performance from the cricket board, I was staggered for an instant. Don't get me wrong - I really did think that Dhoni's record breaking effort deserved a special award. However, let's be reasonable about it. In the euphoria of victory, the local cricket association, the state governments involved and sometimes the BCCI offer huge gifts to players for one-off performances like this. Cricket experts and commentators start groping around for superlatives in their excitement and enthusiasm to eulogize the player. In fact during the post-match review show, good old Kris Srikkanth actually went to the extent of comparing Dhoni with Viv Richards! There is nothing new in all this especially in Indian cricket. However, Rs. 10 lakh is a staggering sum. To add to that, I read this in this morning's paper that Dhoni's home state government is giving him a sum of Rs. 5 lakh! That's 15 lakh earned in a single day! I agree that this was a special performance and I can understand that sponsors sometimes offer huge amounts of money from their own pockets for an especially brilliant one. But think about it: when the BCCI or the state association or the government offers such rewards, whose money are they giving away? With whose authority? How can a single, individual performance in a team game, however great it may be, be rewarded so lavishly? I think such knee-jerk, emotional responses to success in Indian cricket need to be toned down. Tomorrow if Dhoni scores a couple of ducks in a row, are they going to take it away? Let's not deny that there is a streak of irresponsibility in the behaviour of our governing bodies in such situations. I could understand a sum of Rs. 1 lakh even. But 15 lakh! That is surely going overboard. All said and done it's just a game and come to think of it, we've not even won the seven-match series yet. Ok, ok, so it's a religion. But perspective is such a good thing. Let's use it for a change.
Picture courtesy: uk.sports.yahoo.com
Posted on Tue, Nov 1, 2005 at 10:44 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)