In times of recession if there is any stock that is on the rise, it is that of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, aka MSD, and why not? Captain of the Indian cricket team (and a successful one at that) in all forms, darling of the masses, icon of the youth, Mahi’s magical touch turns copper into gold (or that’s what it seems).
A fairytale beginning to his international career, the Twenty20 World Cup trophy in his maiden captaincy assignment, comprehensive victories over the likes of Australia, England, Sri Lanka and now New Zealand.
Mahi has been at helm as the Indian cricket team slowly transformed itself from being ‘the worthy opponents’ to ‘the team to beat’. As the team prepares to launch a realistic assault (along with Proteas) on Australia’s numero uno status in all forms of cricket, Mahi has thrust the cusp of greatness onto himself.
Fairytales do happen.
Amongst all the euphoria that engulfs Mahi and his men during their dream run, a scary
thought, born out of the harsh realities of life, lingers - All good things come to an end.
I am not a pessimist by nature. May be I am just not used to witnessing such unprecedented success by my favorite cricket team.
A look at Mahi’s workload, ever since he first donned Indian cap, offers an interesting perspective.
He has been a part of 36 Tests, 13 Twenty20 Internationals and 135 one-dayers since his debut 5 years ago. Comes to around 328 days of international action, broadly speaking.
Add to that, the 2-month rigours of IPL, where again, he leads the Chennai Super Kings.
Easily the most by any other cricketer.
The number of ups and downs as a wicketkeeper he does aside, the mental toll he would have undergone would be at par to running for the US Presidential elections.
Furthermore, the non-stop traveling between venues, countries and continents also take a toll. In the half a decade that Mahi has been a part of international cricket, he has undertaken full-fledged tours of Australia, South Africa, West Indies, England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and now New Zealand. That, in fact, covers the entire cricketing world.
Being a captain in all formats requires his presence in almost every format.
Added to that, the immense mental pressure created by media, fuelled largely by unrealistically high expectations of fans, the constant scrutiny, numerous public appearances (mostly mandatory)…phew!
The apparent effortlessness with which Mahi has handled the huge demands of the game so far is indeed praiseworthy. Even mind boggling, one can say.
Aren’t we killing the goose that is laying the golden egg?
Isn’t it time to use Mahi judiciously)
One way of reducing Mahi’s burden might be relieving him of his wicket-keeping duties, at least in Tests. A Parthiv Patel or a Dinesk Karthick is as capable behind the stumps and would have anyways walked into most international sides. Also, with stalwarts like Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman flourishing in the twilight of their careers, India’s current batting line-up can accommodate an additional keeper besides Mahi.
Other than that team think-tank needs to decide if Mahi’s presence is needed for every outing. A case in example, why can’t Mahi take an off from inconsequential ties. India’s recent form has seen them play 5 dead rubbers out of their last 15 ODIs. And Mahi was a part of all of them.
Giving Mahi a break would not only provide him with a breather, but would also keep the reserve keeper in a sharp shape and in tune with international cricket.
In the larger picture, a more spaced out itinerary, possible if BCCI tries, would also be welcomed by players. However expecting BCCI to be considerate is nothing more than wistful thinking.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a rare gem that has been unearthed in this country. His contribution to Indian cricket has already been priceless. The least we can do is preserve it.
Give him a best possible chance to establish his legacy. India needs him.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)