Monday, February 25, 2013

How can someone be a Dhoni fan???

How can someone be a Dhoni fan? I couldn’t get the answer to this question for a few years.

Now, I don’t get the logic behind this question.

It all started in 2004. I was going to meet a friend in his hostel. While walking towards his room, I heard a lot of noise coming from somewhere. TV room I thought and entered it. Some batsman with long hair was murdering Pakistan’s pace attack in the most agricultural style.

“Such batsman keep coming and disappearing. He won’t last 20 matches. I don’t know why we keep giving chances to such sloggers” was what I told a friend.

I had seen Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s picture in a newspaper before that – a long haired wicket keeper? People like him also play in our domestic circuit. I had thought. No one could be a Dhoni fan then.

Few months later, while travelling from Rai Bareilly to Lucknow for a cousin’s wedding, I checked the score. 284 for five, chasing a big score against top quality bowling of Pakistan and Sachin was the last man out – let’s see what the slogger does I thought. The slogger scored 148 like a blitzkrieg. In the ODI series on the same tour, he had played a few more thunderous innings. Stories of him drinking 5 liters of milk every day, waiting for 15 balls and then starting the attack were gaining grounds.

When Parvez Musharraf asked him not to change his hairstyle, I wondered – Is he a Dhoni fan? How can he? How can anyone be a Dhoni fan?

Seriously, how could anyone be a Dhoni fan?

People had started growing hair – on their heads I mean. Dhoni hairstyle had become a fashion statement. Some say it was Salman’s Tere Naam but I disagree. Whenever I saw someone sporting a Dhoni hairstyle, I simply laughed – Looks like a fan. How can someone be his fan?

To be fair, he didn’t become a Gilchrist but he was the closest to him what we Indians had seen. His performance on the ground ensured his survival in the side. Actually it wasn’t mere survival – he owned his place in the side.

He did get a few fans I am sure. I was not one of them but I will accept – I had become an admirer. For me he was good in ODIs, could bat in tests in the sub-continent but was he good enough to last swinging conditions in England – it was the big question.

Come Lords 2007 and Dhoni saved a test in Lords – determined batting, rain and a dodgy decision which went in our favor. Maybe there is something in him, something special– is what I thought.

Well he was lucky to have saved that test – more than rain; it was the LBW not given that saved us. I had started admiring him.

But lucky is the world I used, lucky.

Soon he was leading us in T20 world cup.

“Before we begin, I would like to say something. I read an article on cricinfo where you said that Australia had more chances of winning than India. We have proved you wrong and I think you are happier than us” is what he said to Ravi Shastri after winning the semifinal against Australia in T20WC2007.

Give Ravi Shastri a bat and he becomes a boring but gritty batsman. Give him a ball and he becomes a decent left arm spinner. Give him a microphone and he becomes a champion. He is a master of cricketing presentations – the six foot three height, the booming voice and the clichés. He is invincible on that stage.

At that moment, Ravi Shastri looked stunned. He was bowled and stumped by Dhoni. I have never seen Ravi Shastri so clueless when holding his most lethal weapon – the microphone. As I said, he is invincible.

You don’t fight with the crocodile in water – that’s what they say.

“Balls to you” is what Dhoni had said to Ravi Shastri, implicitly. He has balls is what I thought. I had become a Dhoni fan. What I liked most was the confidence. Ravi Shastri is a big name in Indian cricket – he is an opinion maker, an influencer. You don’t mess with these kinds, not in the area of his strength.

Dhoni did that. He didn’t bother about anything. He needn’t have as long as what mattered most was taken care off – winning.

I also heard the story of him not listening to his coach’s advice of batting cautiously in a domestic match and batting in the style he wanted to. This was before he played for India.

“If you listen to the coach, you will never play for India” is what he supposedly told his batting partner. He was dreaming big - impressive for someone coming from a state not really well known for cricket.

Soon he was leading the side. Golden era had started. We didn’t play much outside the subcontinent but wherever we played, we did well.

Dhoni’s performance with the bat was fine. His performance with the gloves was also okay. As long as we were winning, not many complained. The universe termed him as Captain cool.

After the second test in South Africa – 2011, a friend said “India should drop Dhoni now. He is good for nothing”

“He is our second best scorer in this series” even I was surprised at my answer.

Well, I was his fan.

And then, the pinnacle arrived. I don’t really remember much of his first 85 runs in the world cup final. But the last six, the full swing of the bat, the holding of his pose, the twirl of the bat and the rest will never be forgotten. That night ended at 9:00 AM for me on 3rd of April 2011.

That was the best time for Dhoni fans, the best. India was number 1 in tests, world champion in ODIs.

As Bill Gates says “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose”.

Real test is provided by the bad times.

Bad times didn’t follow the world cup win. Disaster did. Calling it bad times would be an understatement.

Some blame for those nightmares has to be copped up by Dhoni and I agreed.

I was, am a fan. I am no fanatic.

His double hundred yesterday brought back the smiles. No doubt, it was one of the best we have seen – be it against a weak attack, on a home ground. Remember, any bowling is as good as a batsman makes it look like. Nathan Lyon’s delivery that got Sachin out was termed as an off spinner’s dream. Same Nathan Lyon was outscored by Dhoni by a small margin.

Finally a fan was smiling.

Back to that question again – how can someone be a Dhoni fan?

I ask back – how can someone not?

To be honest, Dhoni has a crappy batting technique. It is so crappy that sometime I wonder how he made it to this level. But then, he has fantastic understanding of the game. In the last ODI series against England when more technically adept Indian batsmen were finding it impossible to counter the swing in Dharmshala, Dhoni walked across his stumps to counter the swing. That was the first ball he played.

Had he not attacked Lyon yesterday, he might well have made Australians believe that they have their answer ready for Swann.

Dhoni’s batting is not pleasant to eyes. In fact, it is ugly. But he has what some of younger generation batsmen, read Rohit Sharma, don’t have. He has the temperament.

David Lloyd has called him a goal keeper once. I have heard that he is not a natural keeper. But I don’t know how many natural keepers would be faster stumpers than him.

Coming from a small town and making it really big – it is something which can throw anyone off guard. Fame is the devil which has consumed lot of potential in this world. We have seen Kambli, we are seeing Praveen Kumar. It couldn’t do much to Dhoni. Success is fame’s sister, a devil to. Both of them can get in to your head and knock you off your feet.

Coming from a state not well known for cricket and making it really big – that’s how a game spreads. You need to have local heroes making it big so that kids in the town can dream of global ambitions. While others can have an idol in him, credit must be given to him for dreaming big.

Well this is all quite normal for any good player. Temperament, determination, controlling your head while you have made it big is all what a good player will have. Dhoni is a good player.

Failure maybe opposite to success but it is a devil nonetheless. After the debacle in last two years, Dhoni’s head was on the chop. His performance with the bat was not that great. No one witnessed his keeping. It was his captaincy which brought most of the flak.

Selectors refused to remove him citing lack of options.

During all our slumps, we have always had at least one successor to carry on the baton of captaincy. 90s was Ping-Pong between Azhar and Sachin. When Sachin retired, Ganguly was ready – at least he had his place secured in the side. Dravid had been a deputy to Ganguly for almost five years. In Kumble’s case, many people asked – what took it so long. Dhoni was stable as a wicket-keeper batsman in Indian side.

Who would have replaced Dhoni? Sehwag or Gambhir - who didn’t have their own places secured? Or the one who shows his middle finger to the world – Kohli? There was no option.

Yes his captaincy wasn’t great. People said he ran out of his luck. “He is lucky” is what all his moments of success were termed as. I am fine if I succeed like him. Give me that luck is what I thought. Overall, there was reluctance among the people to accept his success, to give him credit.

Surprisingly, most of this attitude I saw in people coming from the Mumbais, the Kolkatas, the Bangalores. Maybe there was something to read in this attitude, maybe there was not. I leave it to you to decide.

No, he wasn’t pure lucky. We must give him some credit. As a captain, he did well as long as middle order was solid as ever, Zaheer was unplayable and Delhi duo wasn’t in hurry to rush back to pavilion. Dhoni’s captaincy was exposed as soon as it all fell apart. A captain is as good as his team. Isn’t it?

Yes it was his fault but not entirely. He is human, no God. For that matter, even Sachin is not God.

Dhoni’s refusal to step down was seen as his greed. I saw it as a quality quite often underrated – strength of character.

It would have been easy to step down but did we have a replacement? No.

And by the way, he is the best wicket keeper batsman we have had. He is surely better than Mongia or More. I didn’t see Farokh Engineer play so cannot comment and Budhi Kunderan’s record was broken yesterday.

Seriously, we didn’t have an option. What we had was someone willing to lead in this hour of adversity without flinching about the criticism that would come his way. We had Dhoni.

In the last two innings he has shown – he can bat for long time in a boring fashion like he did in the last test against England or he can be as entertaining as yesterday. I think he can bat in alien conditions too – he has shown it in the past. I think he can.

As Geff Boycott said, India is lucky to have him. We are indeed.

I am his fan. I wonder how someone cannot be.

Okay, there is a bit of double hundred that he scored yesterday in the tone in which I am talking. There will be days when he will fail miserably. But then, being human he is bound to fail.

Even then, I will be his fan. How someone cannot be?

1 comment:

Pradeep Singh said...

He is not a good player....he is a glorious player...and the technical adeptness angle is similar to the big city angle....dhoni is great precisely because he has proved "balls to you"....on both these angles of snobbery....welcome to small town India.