Millennium Post

The fall of the demigod

When he had burst into the scene, M S Dhoni was the toast of a nation that considers it cricketers some kind of demigods, deliverer of triumph and fortitude against odds. Dhoni was a man of his times - self-made, brash, arrogant and a go-getter - an emblem of a new, confident and abrasive India, economically liberalised and rearing to take on the biggies on the world map and in the cricketing field. Cricket was anyway losing its sheen as a game for gentlemen and was becoming a quicksilver entertainment and Dhoni gave in dollops what his fans wanted. Because of the  T20 World Cup triumph, which came easy and largely because of his gamesmanship, Dhoni was hailed as the captain of a new and younger Team India, cementing his reputation as the man who will now take India into the next phase after the millennial heroes, Sachin, Sourav, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble were found to be inevitably looking hard at the setting sun.

He continued his great form as captain with some luck and some help from the crop of younger players (and also the oldies) in India and abroad till his One-day World Cup triumph in 2011.  For cricket zealots and critics alike, Dhoni was surely on the way to becoming one of India’s most successful captains. But it is the nature of the beast that the heroes of today are found wanting tomorrow. Cricket is no more a game where a player is groomed and coached while on the ground. These days, cricketers come packaged as goodies and must know how to proclaim and perform from the word go. The life span of the average cricketer have diminished and burn out is high. Dhoni is clearly now feeling the burn out. The performance of the Indian team since the World Cup is abysmal to say the least and losing rather than winning has become a default mechanism. No wonder, those who had once seen in him long-term potential now wants him out or at least put on the burner with the oldest saying in sport -perform or perish - written boldly underneath. The latest to have advised that the Indian skipper be rested, is yesteryear great Sunil Gavaskar. As for Dhoni, he can still turn around. A captain, after all, is as good as the team. So Dhoni merely reflects the performance of a team that finds itself increasingly unable to perform. One or two good seasons might give him back his reputation. But it seems increasingly unlikely that Dhoni is the right person to lead India to defend its Word Cup title in 2015. One is usually felled by the same rule by which he had once triumphed. Dhoni had made it sure that those before him, institutionalised in India’s cricketing history, make way for him. By that same rule, he has to make way for newer players and skippers. Unless he makes a spectacular turnaround, Dhoni’s days at the helm may be numbered, and rightly so.
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