Captain Cool’ was fed up of being asked about his retirement plans yet again and it was time to turn the tables on the pesky journalists. So he pulled a chair next to him and called the Aussie reporter on stage next to him.
“I was hoping an Indian journalist had asked this question,” Dhoni’s target was clear, his sense of humour not quite.
When Djokovic calls a ball boy to sit next to him, you can see he is simply being the nice guy. When Dhoni puts an arm around Samuel Ferris, he was nothing but patronising. The captain may have tried to look nonchalant while attempting something out of the ordinary, but to most of us, his behavior was mocking and planned. In recent times, India has had two outstanding captains. Sourav Ganguly who flaunted his aggression standing at the Lord’s balcony with or without his jersey and Dhoni who held aloft every trophy there is to be won, but without a change in expression. These, though, are difficult times. They belong to a certain Virat Kohli and the famed ‘iceman’ Dhoni mask seems to finally be slipping.
It is not just about this press conference. Twice during the World Cup, the usually unflappable Dhoni lashed out unprovoked at journalists, as fans began to question his strategy match after match. Not letting Ravichandran Ashwin finish his bowling quota on a spinning track, giving Kohli the crucial final over in the semi-final were just some decisions that seemed more like blunders. If it was Dhoni’s way of catching the opposition on the backfoot, it backfired. Then, of course, there is his mini team within the playing 11. Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina are generally considered ‘Dhoni’s men’ none of whom really delivered. In Raina’s case the failure continued game after game.
No one can deny or take away Dhoni’s place in cricket history but these dubious decisions questioned even by former players like Ganguly and Virendra Sehwag, were if one is to borrow his words, ‘wrong ammunition at the wrong time’. Overnight the salt and pepper beard was black again. Kohli now gets paid more for endorsements than Dhoni and needless to say is the highest paid cricketer today. On social media he will remain unbeatable for a long time after his passionate defence of ex-girlfriend, actress Anushka Sharma. Never have trolls gone so silent so quickly. If Kohli’s occasional arrogance and brashness sometimes made us question his maturity, his tweets for Anushka, along with the man of the tournament award at the World Cup shows his coming of age.
It is time for him to take over as the captain in all formats of the game. Certainly not as a player, he is still the best wicketkeeper India has, his running between the wickets (as he himself insisted on pointing out) is fast and furious and he remains India’s best finisher. Dhoni’s tragedy is also that he is surrounded by a bunch of very average players, especially the bowlers, many of whom don’t deserve a spot even in the India ‘A’ team. We can’t blame the captain if someone of the calibre of spinner Ashwin sends a no-ball, nothing can be more inexcusable. However, it is time some of Dhoni’s men are disbanded. Cricketers in India and perhaps across the sub-continent are treated as demi-gods and sadly, it doesn’t take them long to get into the character.
The money is obscene, the adulation something they have never dreamt of. But amidst all the euphoria, they forget the march of time. It may be Kohli’s era now as once it was Dhoni’s. But some years down the line, another journo at a press conference in some other part of the world will be asking him his retirement plans. That is cricket’s biggest reality and Kohli will be better off remembering that, as he keeps his date with history.