With Sourav Ganguly's future in doubt and the other stalwarts on a sticky wicket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's rise in Indian cricket is almost complete. Not long ago, only people in Jharkhand were singing songs praising him, these devotional CD's outselling AR Rehman in Ranchi. Now, with everyone hailing Dhoni as Indian cricket's next God, is it time to install his murti in temples - a distinction usually reserved for giants such as Rajni-boss, Kamal Haasan and Chiranjeevi.
Dhoni's spectacular growth does not diminish cricket's retiring Gods, it only indicates that they have reached another stage in their journey. In films, Amitabh Bachchan continues to be King / Badshah/ Shehenshah regardless of the progress of various Khans. And Latadidi remains in a class of her own, despite the Alishas and the Sreyas.
For a commercial industry that requires pegs to hang their laptop-generated-marketing initiatives on, Dhoni is a logical leader, specially when a secular India has declared cricket as its official religion. He leaped from kaun-Dhoni to King-Dhoni in a matter of just four years, which suggests he is a smart, precocious student who received several double promotions to complete a PhD at 20.
Some would say such speed is the essence of young India and Dhoni just happens to be the right batsman at the crease at the right time. The buzz among India's Youngistan is 20-20, the format which has helped cricket develop its commercial muscle and grow in size by shrinking in time. And Dhoni, given his cool attitude and extraordinary playing skills, is cricket's response to a market demand for celebrities.
In a twisted way, Dhoni's example demonstrates the power of cricket, the game is bigger than any individual and can create and destroy stars so quickly. But todays' heroes are bigger because they are all-rounders in the sense they inaugurate showrooms, launch new products, judge reality shows and walk the ramp with hot size-zero models.
As the focus shifts from experience to youth, cricket will deliver new stars every few years, just as car manufacturers introduce new models into the market. So, if it's Dhoni for the moment, it will be someone else the day after.