Cricketers make a name for themselves for possessing at least one particular trait that separates them from the others.
Ganguly not only became a symbol of dancing down the track during the fierce nineties but also for lifting his side to competing at its highest form of performance, especially in the ODIs.
For Lara, it was his high-backlift and the ability to bail the West Indies out of trouble.
For Tendulkar, it was the ability to bring the world’s second-most populous country to a virtual standstill for as long as he was present on the 22 yards.
For Steve Waugh, it was playing the ‘Iceman’ whilst Australia were in all sorts of trouble.
You know what has been MS Dhoni’s USP, don’t you?
For a man who had nothing to do with aeronautics or aviation, it was special that MS Dhoni’s helicopter stroke earned him endearment from fans, way more than his long-locked looks.
When he burst on the scene, he was sort of a pleasant anomaly in a classic caricaturish system; he was sweet, soft-spoken, yet fast-paced in the field, behind the stumps and a bit of a dude, full of enterprise amid mild-mannered men revered for a character.
Soon, we’d see what MS Dhoni would transform into being.
Long before there existed a concept of biopics made in true wham-bam Bollywood fashion on our cricketers, MS Dhoni, had hammered Shoaib, pounced on Dale Steyn, and took the Mickey out of Dale Steyn and company.
The last decade would show us the peak he’d reach. The agile athlete on the field; quick in-between the wickets, razor-sharp behind it, there’ve been only a few who’ve managed to change the complexion of an ODI contest by engaging in a bit of both: dexterity with wicket-keeping and brute striking.
Dhoni’s enigma in that sense is unhinged by flaws his batting has come to depict today.
But one must remember and probably one doesn’t that often that Dhoni’s no machine. Nor is the boy, who once sported long locks while what he sports now, is salt and pepper stubble, happens to be a Universal Soldier.
The days of living dangerously on the pitch, dancing down the track to medium pacers are dated. Who knows, they’re far from over?
While Dhoni, the hero of the unlikely stumping that gave India the edge in the 2018 Asia Cup finals is not the risk-taking, inveterate gambling captain of a cricketer who once dared to give the ball in that final over to a Joginder Sharma in 2007.
And for die-hard fans, what’s also changed is the ability of the ‘Thala’ of Chennai, the super king of India’s limited overs’ success to transform the complexion of a game by sheer audacious stroke-play.
And perhaps, to that end, what hasn’t changed is Dhoni’s penchant for the sport, a contest that he, according to many- both critics and purists- is pursuing given his sheer love for competing.
How else would one explain his continuance despite having collected 14000 international runs, among them, 10,200 plus in ODIs, 16 centuries, 101 fifties, 566 catches, 153 stumpings?
That told, could it be that our man who struggled in England in a way one hadn’t expected him to- hence earning the ouster from the T20s to Australia- is simply old to compete in international cricket?
And if yes, what creation of a super subliminal theory would help fans understand the basic logic that when one’s old, it’s simply not possible to exhibit the old magic?
It’s not that MS Dhoni went to Hogwarts. It’s also not that he helped inspire the anti-ageing theory, a massively deceptive marketing strategy that’s helping cosmetic brands punch above their weight world-over.
So who’s to be blamed for the anti-Dhoni rhetoric, besides Dhoni himself?
While he brought up a hard-fought fifty against Australia recently at the series opener at Sydney, it wasn’t clearly the best knocks by a long margin.
Admirers who’ve grown up seeing Dhoni decimate Pakistan in the mid-2000s to crafting his ebullient Test double, the only of his career, would’ve grown frail and confused seeing Mahi’s failure at rotating the strike.
That he wasn’t able to score off many also put pressure on the man at the other end, who has both form and age going for him.
One wonders, what might have been Rohit Sharma’s thoughts in the middle seeing a colossus of the modern game struggle the way he was?
That Dhoni was drafted into the ODIs at the back of what was clearly a lackadaisical performance against arguably one of the sloppiest ODI teams- the West Indies- with scores of 23,7, 20 wasn’t too inspiring either.
Sadly, the thing with MS Dhoni is that, akin to a Mike Hussey, as seen in ODIs and later T20s, or Gilchrist, as seen in ODIs, he cannot be brought up the order.
What if he ends up consuming more deliveries?
He’s, not a number 4 either.
That Dhoni’s collected 4000 plus ODI runs at a fantastic average of 46 from number 6 justifies his selection at that position. But that he’s not able to score mightily well and at the pace only he’s capable of stands in starc contrast to his current selection.
And this rancour being evidenced on social media where the former captain cool is being subjected to memes and vitriol clearly begs a straightforward question.
Are India persisting with Dhoni only for his experience? Should that be the case, then is it delivering?
Also, is a failure in the first game of the series evidence of his collective capitulation or should we give Dhoni more chance ahead?
Cricket is a simple sport. You do well, you stay in the team. You do not, you should be on your way out.
Gilchrist retired since he felt he wasn’t ‘in it’ anymore. Lara decided to call it a day knowing well that he was running out of flavor with his selectors.
What should Dhoni do now? For starters, the fans can begin by understanding a basic; he’s not the gangly youth who could play Sparta each time he went out there anymore.