There can be no greater acceptance and adulation of a person than when people start wearing his masks and actors impersonate him on cinema screens. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is now already beyond the mortal grasp, immortality has embraced him. He is beyond reproach and can play any part he chooses to with impunity.
His folklore-like cricketing journey which is now playing in cinema halls, has given him a halo most crave for but very few achieve.
There is a flip side to this bounty of fate, a just reward for excelling in a field where fame and money multiply with each success. Alas, a sportsperson’s future depends on his age! And unlike most other fields where mind matters more than brawn, a sportsperson’s longevity has an age cap: The younger the better. In cricket, the early 30s could be the peak and after that, the downhill journey begins.
Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t escape this fate, neither will Virat Kohli at some stage and nor will Dhoni.
For most sportspersons, the thought of quitting centrestage is akin to death. It is a fear that stalks most of them, especially when the mind is willing but the body is not. They are very reluctant to accept that they too are mortal and have an expiry date beyond which they can’t be of much use.
In Dhoni’s case, he is still the best India has when it comes to being the wicket-keeper and a marauding late-order batsman in the limited-overs format. Age may have dimmed his reflexes but it has not diminished his skills that have made him the match-winner the world has feared over the years. His place in the Indian team is secure, though there will be doubts raised about whether he can last till the 2019 World Cup. He is 35 and by the time the World Cup takes place, will be touching 38, an age when most sportspersons spend time implementing their retirement plans.
It is this reason alone that gives rise to another important question related to India’s and, to a lesser extent, Dhoni’s future.
Should India be planning their World Cup strategy not sure whether Dhoni will be part of their scheme of things? How long should Kohli be denied his rightful place as captain of the Indian team across all formats? These are questions that should not be ignored as the Indian team goes forward in its quest to win the World Cup.
India is indebted to “captain cool” Dhoni for all he has done in his career for the team, and being a team man himself, he would not be unaware of the realities of future planning.
If there is anything permanent in sport, it is the impermanence of an individual, howsoever great his contribution may have been.
His utility as a player is not in doubt as of now and to take a call on his retirement as a player should be left to him. It is the captaincy of the team that India should be more concerned with at the moment.
India play a major series with England from next month and that would be the right time for another transition to take place in Indian cricket. Let the One-day team too benefit from the passion, energy and buoyancy that Virat Kohli has invested the Indian Test team with.