Brand Dhoni must be saved . Bizarre theories and explanations have been in circulation since Sunday night’s Indian capitulation . A narrative has now taken root – MSD batted pathetically as part of some plan , the details of which only he is aware of . Conspiracy theories and their shades vary as per their promoters’ and backers’ nationalities, religions, political inclinations, understanding of sports and credulity levels . In a subcontinent of 1500 million, one would find all sorts.
Mahi is a serving armyman who was not allowed by the ICC to sport the Balidan Badge on his keeping gloves . The Lt.Col. has retaliated by conducting a surgical strike on the arch-enemy’s chances at the World Cup . In the most Gandhian of traditions , MSD refused to attack English bowling and mortally harmed his own reputation as a finisher , but ensured that both Pakistan and ICC get the message . This was his piece de resistence , his “non-violent fidayeen” moment , his expenditure of personal cricketing capital in the service of national strategic interests. Or so the Right Wing hypernationalist trolls want you to believe.
It helps that he was clad in kesariya or bhagwa (saffron), like a dharma warrior . Dhoni fanatics, the Whistlepodu brigade, are quick to embrace these whispers and are quick to point out that MS sports pitambar or basanti (yellow) jersey regularly for CSK as well . Didn’t he transmogrify into Vishnu some years back ? Does not one spot some obvious connection ?
World Cups are not about sports . Didn’t we see Free Baluchistan banners? Don’t we suspect some Indian involvement in that show? Didn’t our Home Minister congratulate Team India for another surgical strike after they beat Pakistan on June 16th? Make no mistake, Dhoni was on a mission. Whether he was acting on his own ,or under directions, won’t ever be known.
Brand managers don’t need to sweat extra when they have such a committed rag, tag and bobtail coalition of supporters as whistlepodus of CSK, sympathetic and proud Biharis and Jharkhandis and genuine admirers of ‘ Dhoni cool’ . It is easy to run campaigns. Someone mentioned NRR , and defenders of Dhoni faith lapped it up. “They played sensibly for the sake of maintaining a healthy NRR.” Who cares about checking that NRR would have actually been helped by scoring more runs in less overs , as wickets do not matter in its calculations. Even one more run with loss of five more wickets would have been better ! In their moments of desperation, fanboys question why are spinners, K.L.Rahul and Kedar Jadhav not being targeted . Or why is slow start to the chase not being blamed enough ? These do make better sense than the NRR theory, but its not the loss per se, but its manner which has become the issue.
Rohit and Virat in their post-match interactions hinted that the pitch had become slower, and the ground had become bigger towards the final overs of Indian innings. Such lame excuses provide fertile ground for conspiracy theorists to sow their seeds. Nasser Hussain and KP were intrigued by MSD’s civil disobedience as it happened . Even Dada had no explanation for sundry dots and singles in the last stages , or for the lack of ‘trying’ . Whistlepodus , RW trolls, ultra-nationalists and armchair apologists have all come together to search for answers . They have received vital succour from distraught Pakistanis and fixing theorists .
Basit Ali had already hinted before the match that India might pull some stunt like this. Waqar Younis is inconsolable since the match got over . Pakistanis fear this Indian side to an extent of considering them invincible. They can’t digest what they saw. The Helicopter came unstuck when they prayed for it to fly like a bomber . Some aver ,rather ridiculously ,that India wants to avoid Pakistan in Knockouts , doesn’t want to jeopardise their 7-0 Cup record and haven’t forgotten the loss in the final of Champions Trophy .
Allegations of fixing can’t be kept at bay. It didn’t take special effort to be reminded of the Mongia-Prabhakar show of 1994 vs West Indies at Kanpur . Needing 63 off 9 overs ,India had managed to score 5 runs in the next 4,and 11 in the next 5 overs, losing the match by 46 runs. That performance had consequences. When Jadhav joined MSD ,India needed 71 runs off 31 balls – very tough, but still possible. Shockingly , the duo added 27 in the next 25 balls- 5 dots, 18 comfortable singles and just 2 fours. It became unbearable to watch as India was choked out of breath.
Of course, amidst all this hullabaloo, the simplest of explanations ,the least sexy one, has predictably not found traction . Dhoni ,as a batsman, is finished. His struggles have been quite obvious over the past few years. Reaction time has increased, bat swing is no longer as smooth as it used to be , timing is hopelessly off ,match practice is not what it should have been and even his senses of sound and sight are deserting him ( why else is the Dhoni Review System faltering with alarming regularity ). This, and the fact that we actually ran the chase badly while English bowlers bowled beautifully,that our middle order is unsettled and pathetic ,and perhaps ,the English batsmen are bigger flat-track bullies than their Indian counterparts might explain this tame surrender.
As for average cricket like me , a loss in not a bad bargain . It leaks some gas out of the Shaz-Ko bluster, takes law of averages out of the picture , kicks Pakistan almost out of the Cup, exposes our weaknesses when there is still time and yet doesn’t affect our semi-final chances. Yet the manner in which we played out the last six overs was cringeworthy . We didn’t just lose that tie , we surrendered in a humiliating manner. One can just hope that the side manages to leaves this behind as they begin their onward journey in the World Cup.