Image source: India Today

10,000 plus ODI runs, a batting average in excess of fifty one, ten hundreds, nearly seventy fifties, a strike rate of eighty eight, countless dismissals, lightning fast reflexes, some dropped chances, some white hair as seen the other day in addition to a growing white beard and a tireless zeal for the game.

MS Dhoni is more complicated than the Rubik’s cube. And perhaps, in the same instance- more polarized than the LGBT debate in different parts of the world.

But is MS Dhoni, given all that he has done for cricket and achieved becoming endangered species?

Rather, is the Indian cricket fan becoming an easily enraged species in the sport?

Dhoni being booed at Lord’s seems to have unlocked a debate whose time finally seems to have come. For fans who cannot imagine life other than cricket, it’s a matter demanding immediate introspection like the fiscal budget.

On pure experience and his valuable finishing powers- often challenged nowadays- should Dhoni be on the plane to arrive where he currently is, for next year’s ICC World Cup in England?

In terms of batting consistency, India may have to follow a different course for the future.

Should it do the latter, and regardless of how much the fan wants to be a part of the think-tank that takes the call of Dhoni’s future- the clout of Dhoni’s critics’ growing- it seems, India may already have made its plan.

Why else is he even being played in England? Don’t they want among the game’s best six-hitters to get constant practice before the big-stage?

Cricket Country

It also remains to be answered should Dhoni be sacked, would Virat not need a serious figure during times of intense competition and nerves in England next year?

Are Raina, Dhawan, Rahane, the two Yadavs, Chahal enough to offer most amazing advice?

So what should the team do with MS Dhoni?

That’s a call Indian cricket has to take, thankfully not the author.

But, regardless of who you are- a Mahi lover or a Dhoni-hater, yes, the latter exists, one may not be able to arrive at concurrence even after Dhoni rests his gloves.

This is the current hot topic being debated in a country that’s celebrated Ganguly taking his shirt off, poked fun at Dravid’s slow batting style, perhaps never really acknowledged Laxman’s true contribution to the sport and joined hands in admiration when Tendulkar continued finally scoring his 100th hundred.

If historical trends are any indication when fans and the board didn’t have a problem with Tendulkar continuing for long, why should Dhoni’s case be any different?

But of course, Dhoni is no god.

He’s not struck a century of hundreds.

Even as he’s led legends like Sachin and been part of overseas victories and home triumphs. In hindsight, his role-model, Gilchrist knew when to go. He was perhaps as fit as MS is today. But one knows when to go, as Dravid rightly put it.

It’s still a convoluted truth out there- is Dhoni waiting to exhale once again or is his best behind him?

Cricket, of course, unites us more than a distant cousin from the US ever can.

And pleasing the Indian cricket fan is a task more complex than understanding art-house cinema.

For a “cricket worshipping not loving” country, Dhoni’s imminent future seems a decision firstly entrusted in the hands of fans and later in those who call the shots.

While we may rue his presence in the game, we cannot and fundamentally cannot belittle his contributions. Can we? So even as we can do no more than speculate, it may make sense to re-live what makes Dhoni occupy the space he currently does.

Surely Ganguly was the proponent of a rabble-rousing change; give it back to those who give it to you in the first place.

Ganguly’s leadership and the combined heroics of everyone from Sachin to Bhajji, Rahul to Zaheer hoisted the Indian flag in places it hadn’t seen- Adelaide to Jo’burg.

Ganguly taught us to fight but Dhoni, not the worst captain India has seen- or is he- carried forward a fighting legacy to clinch glories his formidable predecessor hadn’t.

To this day, MS Dhoni is the only captain to have won each of the ICC major trophies- be it in the World T20 stage or the 50 over-world Cup or the Champions trophy. Moreover, he stuck with Raina and Ashwin and Kuldeep, KL have blossomed under his tutelage.

To have someone at number 7 with 10,000 ODI runs in itself is an achievement matching the height of the Karakoram Range in India.

But there’s a chink in his armour and after all, it cannot be veiled for long. Why on earth is Dhoni taking more deliveries to open his account and afterwards, slowing down when the game demands to up the ante is something time or the man himself might answer?

Fans can do what they want.

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But it is important to address a crucial question. Have we come to deride the man we’ve taken pride in hailing, so much so that we sent cinema’s packed when a film on his life was released?

Every time Dhoni did something whether dancing down the track on an IPL pitch to send the ball flying or chopping off his long tresses- we, the fans marched along.

The purist might have cried a bucket when Dhoni, who received his ODI cap from “The Wall” of India, showed it the door upon assuming captaincy.

Still, we marched alongside.

Today, when it seems, the ageing Dhoni, a bit like Gayle, age-wise, though clearly a cheetah between the wickets to the Jamaican’s sloth bear, we seem disengaged.

Don’t we?

Surely, it’s not hard to see that fit that he may be- there hardly being an inch of puppy fat in those 37-year-old limbs, bones and blood frame- Dhoni’s limited overs form needs improvement.

To chuck him out means to leave out arguably, India’s agilest and most charismatic keeper. As Dhoni the batsman might fail, batsmen, by in large know what becomes of their stumps when they play and miss, going out of the crease.

On second thoughts, if Rohit was considered a lot many times in Tests when he hasn’t really answered, should an experienced pro like Dhoni be discarded like a stale leftover?

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So once again the call is what might India value more- emotion or practicality? Passion or performance? Thankfully, none of us has to have a hand in deciding which way the ball turns. Still, it’s a perspective of massive importance to Indian cricket.

(with contributions from Dev Tyagi)


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