Last night I had a dream. A weird dream, if I may call it. The weirdness wasn't linked to the event that was shaping up. What was weird was the way I reacted to the event. Under normal circumstances, if suddenly, out of the blue, Mahendra Singh Dhoni decides that he is hanging up his boots, it will lead to all kinds of hue and cry from his fans and critics alike.
Why not? He is arguably the best captain ever to have led Indian cricket team. But as you know, the world of dreams is as enigmatic as Sourav's die-hard fans desires of watching him taking guard for a side in a T20 match!!!
As the news of Dhoni retiring from all forms of cricket was thrust upon us (in the dream, of course!!!), rather than being stupefied as waking-up out of your slumber to a Himesh Reshamiya's number, the world, including me, wasn't surprised at all!! As if they said, we don't give a dime for that!
There was no one talking about how the man with the Midas touch, in his five year reign as a captain, cast a spell over us lesser mortals with his stroke-play, numerous match winning knocks and shrewd captaincy. Not a single newspaper had made it a front page story or devoted reams of their newsprint heaping praises of his illustrious career. Surprisingly, no newsreader came screaming on the top of his/her voice declaring how they were dumbfounded when their channel was the first one to BREAK the exclusive story of Dhoni calling it a day!!
During saner times, a cricket fan like me would have expected a frenzied, gloomy and an atmosphere of grief and something that should have panned out like this:-
Mahendra Singh Dhoni after capturing the final two frontiers of his career- winning Test series in Australia and South Africa calls a press conference to announce something important. Speculations are rife. All sorts of stories are floating in media circles. An interesting one says Dhoni is giving up his cricketing career to try his hand at filmmaking like Vijay Amritraj.
However, the important point here is what Dhoni is going to say? Well, fast forward to the press conference and there he says in plain English that he is retiring from all forms of cricket including IPL. The reason behind this is that he has nothing to prove and has achieved everything that a captain would dream of. A dead silence wafts through the hall as Mahi leaves it with a sense of relief and a glow on his face, which actually is in stark contrast to facial expressions of the frenzied media personals who are shouting, weeping, chasing Dhoni for some exclusive bites or a first-post retirement interview, making frantic phone calls to their organisations for their valuable inputs or insight into the story that is bound to send a nation of billion plus cricket fans into a temporary state of numbness.
The fans are crying, carrying posters, pleading their demi-god to reverse his decision as if they know what is best for him. Newspapers are full of mini 'magnum opera' about the eight years of pure class and magical journey ushered in by a short, soft spoken boy from Ranchi.
Instead, the reaction is quite opposite. As if nothing has happened.
Well, brace yourself for such reactions in the near future, for the recent incidents of cricketers retiring and then making comebacks and then again retiring only to make another comeback becoming too common.
One of the most prolific and brilliant stroke-player from Sri Lanka, Sanath Jayasuriya recently announced that he will be coming out of retirement for a last hurrah. He would play against England in a T20 match and few ODIs as well and then retire (again?).
Before him, Shahid Afridi announced his retirement from international cricket owing to some differences with the coach and the board, vowing to return only on his own terms. He was preceded by Shaun Tait in 2008 who took a sabbatical from cricket citing physical and mental exhaustion.
New Zealand's former batsman Martin Crowe also gave a hint or two recently via twitter that he wants to play first class cricket again after 15 years to complete 20,000 first class runs which he currently falls short by 392 runs.
All these incidents somewhere lead us to the conclusion that retirement is somewhat becoming a daily thing for cricketers these days. You retire one day feeling this is all what you could give as a player and then after sometime when you think you've rediscovered your mojo, it is time to be back in the business.
Why would not you call it a day once and for all? OK, we know that how much you love the game and how it is the only thing that you know, that it is in your blood. But such oscillations only reduce your credibility. It is not always that you can use your past to shape your present. Sometimes, it is better to live in present and accept the reality.
Take the example of Sourav Ganguly. What good did it do to him to play for Pune Warriors in IPL 4? Maybe he wanted to satisfy his ego after being snubbed by his former team Kolkata Knight Riders and other IPL franchisees during auction. Did he not retire gracefully from international cricket? What else did he want to prove?
Retirement is not like having a cup of coffee. It is a major decision based on deep understanding of your present abilities and a foresightedness of your future. A sabbatical is certainly a better way than retiring to rejuvenate and reignite the hunger to excel.
I am quite sure if in future when a player announces his retirement, not many fans would shed a tear after witnessing dozens of comebacks by then would doubt the credibility of such announcements. And maybe, a term might also be coined as 'Jayasuriya' that means someone who is in the habit of retiring and making comebacks frequently. Someone doing such would be called as 'doing a Jayasuriya'! Surely, retirement has become a joke.