Cricket Column: Nap in the lap of turbulence: Dhoni’s art of living in times of ‘why not?’

Sports Monday 28/August/2017 15:02 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: Nap in the lap of turbulence: Dhoni’s art of living in times of ‘why not?’
Umpires stopped play. Sri Lankan players crowded in the middle of the ground to escape from bottles thrown into the field by angry, disgusted fans. Rohit Sharma stood confused and MS Dhoni lay in the ground face down, eyes closed and head resting on the palms. Call it a power nap or a yoga posture to relax, or whatever you like, the simple, spontaneous surprise delivered by Dhoni had more to it than met the eyes, perhaps.
It was just a week ago that chairman of selectors MSK Prasad admitted that Dhoni was no more an automatic choice. Why not? That’s how the chief of selectors chose to answer questions about Dhoni’s future as a member of the Indian limited-overs team getting ready for the 2019 World Cup.
Why not, if he is delivering, and why not, if he is not. The first why not guarantees a place in the team for the former skipper as long as he is doing it all right, and the second why not comes into play if he is not. It sounded simple: dropping Dhoni is so uncomplicated and automatic a matter that you don’t lose any nap over.
From this angle, the nap in the lap of turbulence — turbulence of the kind we witnessed from a section of the Sri Lankan crowd during the third ODI on Sunday, or the kind that was put bluntly and unkindly by Prasad and some of the former Indian cricketers — looked like Dhoni’s mystic way of response that seemed plain and simple from the exterior but strange and intricate on closer look.
Prasad delved on Dhoni’s dispensability on August 14, and Dhoni’s reaction has been cool and calculated in the few days since. He did not get to bat in the first match, nor was he the man of the match in the second or the third even when he batted well, but he had an indispensable role in the series victory, especially the way the last two games were settled.
Team India won the second ODI from a precarious position of seven down for 137, thanks to Dhoni’s presence in the middle that inspired even Bhuvaneshwar Kumar to hit an 89-metre six and post his first-ever ODI fifty in a match-winning performance. In the third, though Rohit Sharma was still around and only four wickets were down, the going wouldn’t have been smooth for India if Dhoni had perished early.
Dhoni came at the crease when India lost four quick wickets for 61 runs and Akila Dananjaya looked like replaying footage of the second game. The Sri Lankan spinner dismissed KL Rahul in his first over and Kedar Jadhav in the second, and another wicket, especially that of Dhoni whose composed approach and presence at the crease impress and influence the other batsman, would have handed the momentum to the hosts.
Dhoni was the cube of ice as he was in the second. He would come down the pitch, play with bat close to pad and earn a single or be happy with nothing. He did this with unfailing regularity throughout, getting almost all his runs in ones and twos. Four boundaries and a six in his 67 not out, with 45 runs coming off a boring routine of pushing the ball into the gaps and running the singles, always looking for another.
The nap could be viewed against the backdrop of another interesting observation made by the chairman of selectors that looked seemingly innocent but potentially ominous. It was the Andre Agassi parallel invoked by Prasad. Life began after 30 for Agassi and he was brilliant until he retired at 36 — that was how the chairman sought to put a philosophical spin on the legend. Dhoni turned 36 a month ago. Time to retire?
The utility displayed by Dhoni in the last two matches underscores his effectiveness in vulnerable situations, especially those involving low targets. The legend is happy inside that he was able to keep his critics at bay, but he knows it’s just for now. A hint of failure, and the chorus will be heard again.
What better way to relax in times such as these than to seemingly close your eyes and pretend to switch yourself off while staying connected to reality from deep within to rise and revolt against the naysayers!
Bravo, legend.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman