Sunday, April 03, 2011

A Paean to Mahendra Singh Dhoni - What Else?

Victory is sweet! India's win in World Cup Cricket was the sort made in heaven. As one who had witnessed the 1983 win I was overwhelmed and there was an unknowing moistening of the corners of the eyes. Those days, with new television broadcasts coming to Bombay - I remember standing on my knees on a coarse cement-paved floor to watch my first match - I used to watch a lot of cricket. What's this game? Why are they padded up when I play with a tennis ball and don't wear any pads at all? Why are they taking so much time to walk to the other end of the wicket? 

After the initial disappointment of watching India lose against West Indies (in those distant seventies), I had strayed away from cricket knowing it to be an addiction that was taking me away from my goal of being associated with the arts. Ah, that dream is still waiting to come to fruition. Aside from that there was marriage, son, and a period in Saudi Arabia, and then back. One tends to lose track of where life leads you. If you drift, you drift, as my father always said. I drifted away from sports and my writing pursuits as my priority now became giving security to my family. Now that son is an earning member of the family, my choices are open. As I have mentioned before I am late entrant into creative writing after the initial infantile spark had died down. 

Defeat is ugly, scarring, dishonouring and the outcome is the worst possible things that could happen to man - depression. I have faced both victory and defeat. I have watched matches all these years (50 odd, I won't reveal how many that odd means, it's irrelevant) and I have found that sportsmen are better equipped to handle defeat because their bodies are fit and trim and they have a positive attitude to failure because otherwise they will never be where they are. The very act of being in a sporting arena is full of tension. I learnt this when I played for my college football team. Sportsmen not only play a game they hold the standards high for the institution they represent and indeed entire nation and its people. That's a big responsibility. You are watched all the time, evaluated for each move, analysed for shortcoming, in fact, treated as an object. So it was good to hear Harbhajan say, "We won it for the people of India. This is for you." Something suchly. I don't remember the exact words. 

I had made the mistake of dismissing India as a bad team, bad in morale and bad in strategy. But in Dhoni I saw a spark of a good leader. Considering all the tense matches, the clash of veteran players at the height of their performance, the watching billion fans, he was an oasis of calm. He was cool, calm, collected, almost zen-like. During the match with Pakistan Sachin seemed to have lost his avoirdupois and was seen shouting instructions to the players. Dhoni saw this and gestured to him (Sachin) to pare down. Dhoni's eyes and expressions show the kind of leader he is. He can inspire by his very presence in the field. No words, no admonitions, only performance. 

In these times when we think of bringing business at all costs to India - for the money of course - we need to look at the example set by that cool captain Dhoni. When the team needed him he went into the middle and he stood his ground delivering 90 odd runs. Each run of his was made with great deliberation, not just with any wavering shot off the bat. At a crucial juncture he kept his head when all were losing theirs. The fans were more tense than him, yet he maintained a squared shoulder which he never let droop. 

I love a winner, I loved the World Cup Final yesterday because of the exemplar that Dhoni is. I love his captaincy and hope he continues to lead India to victory. So I thought I would write this blog to sing a paean to him. You played very well captain. You deserved to win!

But, all things said, I still hate the game! It wasted an entire evening of mine.

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