Yesterday(28/3/2006),I had the pleasure of watching(at the stadium)India beat England at the Firozshah kotla ground here in Delhi.There were some very interesting comments by the crowd on Mahendra Singh Dhoni but first the context:-
About a week back , Sachin Tendulkar made frontline news in the Times of India and Hindustan Times when he was booed by his homecrowd for getting out very cheaply. Many former senior cricketers criticized the crowd for insulting a senior cricketer like Tendulkar. Kapil Dev, in his autobiography has mentioned how the players were reduced to tears on receiving an overwhelming welcome on winning the world cup in 1983. Six months later, the crowd tried to pelt them with stones on losing a match to the West Indies. He said that this has to be taken in the spirit of "taking the brickbats with the bouqets" and that is how Sachin should probably see the situation.
It is too premature to compare Dhoni to Sachin, but some of the statements of the crowd were revealing(It seemed that he was was the "cricketkeeper" of the nation instead of mere wicketkeeper):-
1) As soon as Shewag got out, somebody called to say, "Oye Gambhir, Gambhir hoke mat kheliyo, kuch Dhoni se seekh. (Gambhir, don't play quietly, follow Dhoni's example)
2)Except for the fall of the first wicket, whenever the other wickets fell, the crowd was eager to see whether or not the incoming batsman was Dhoni by continously chanting his name. When he finally made his appearance after the fall of 4-5 wickets, he received a loud roar.
3) In the Toilet, I overheard people in adjoining toilets having a chat on what a fool Dravid was for not sending Dhoni earlier.
4) At the food stall, somebody remarked that one need not worry about the fall of early wickets as anything was possible as long as Dhoni's wicket was intact.
5) When I was returning to my seat with foodplates in both my hands, I had to stop at one place where I overheard a cop requesting his boss(in hindi)not to move him as Dhoni had come and the boss eagerly stole a glance to the ground from his duties to acertain the fact.
6) When Dhoni hit a shot which seemed to be rushing to the boundary but was halted, prompt came a remark from behind ,"Yeh ulloo ke paththe pata nahin kahaan kahaan se aa jaate hain fielding karne". "God knows from where these **** come from to obstruct the shot". It seemed that every shot of Dhoni should go for a four or six.
7) When Dhoni got out,an Englishman in the crowd began to stand and applaud. Somebody remarked from Behind" Oye Angrez ki Aulaad, Dhoni ne Dhulai nahin ki tau kya hua, main teri dhulai kar doonga. Niche, baith, ****"-Hey Englishman, so what if Dhoni did not hit out today, I will hit you. Sit down, you ****)
Such expectations, such adulation. One really salutes Sachin Tendulkar for carrying the burden of even more expectations in his illustrious 16 year career. Some film producers sit among the crowd for gauging the response to their films but I would be very nervous to hear such comments if I were a cricket star.
Though over the years I have admired different attributes of different cricketers in both forms of the game, I am with the crowd and very much a fan of one day cricket. Unfortunately, cricketers are unanimous in their opinion that test cricket is the real cricket though in my view one day cricket is a different form of test where the resources have to be utilized optimally because of the time constraint.( Just as one of the reasons attributed to the success of Japan and Germany after the second world war the scarcity of resources which forced their efficient utilization). There are some self styled connoisseurs who still enjoy the five day game(one can admire a player's stamina and temprament but who wants to pay to watch all that and who has the time in today's world) but I think the majority is for the one day fireworks. I think that the cricket board should host a best of three one days at each ground. Then the cricketers will get their job satisfaction and the crowd shall get their value for money.It will be a win-win situation for all.
Sachin does not deserve to be booed but the test matches played on lop sided batting pitches(first two test matches in pakistan) definitly deserve a thumbs down.
My admiration for Dhoni has doubled and going with the popular mood, let me add one of the most popular songs of yesteryear's:-
"Anhoni ko honi kar de, honi ko anhoni,
Ek Jagah jab jama ho teeno- Dhoni, Dhoni aur Dhoni"
There are six matches to go. Hope my words prove prophetic.