MS Dhoni flew over 7,000 kilometres from a hot and humid Mumbai to a damp and cold Birmingham, but some things just remain the same.
The venue for his press conference, like in Mumbai, was the Hyatt Regency and like the pre-departure briefing, there was only one question on the minds of journalists in the pre-tournament briefing - the spot-fixing saga and Dhoni’s take on the alleged involvement of kith and kin; with CSK ‘team principal’ Gurunath Meiyappan behind bars and photos surfacing of wife Sakshi with alleged fixing facilitator Vindoo Dara Singh.
If it was India’s media manager Dr RN Baba who was swatting away all the questions on spot-fixing on Tuesday, it was the turn of the ICC officials to do the same on Thursday.
A relaxed Dhoni entered the Scherzo Room playing to his Captain Cool façade and flashing the trademark smile. He was wearing his custom range of Reebok zig-zag shoes but the questions were always going to be unidirectional.
An English TV journalist asked the first question, “Glad to be out of that?” A simple yes/no answer for someone with Dhoni’s experience of side-stepping tough questions from the Fourth Estate.
The Englishman taking a cue, and probably glancing at the zig-zag shoes, then tried to be more direct. “I know you’ve kept quiet on the controversy surrounding the corruption scandal, but…” he said, before his question was cut short by the ICC official, who stepped in and asked the questions to be restricted to the Champions Trophy.
When Dhoni finally did open his mouth, he may have spoken but the silence echoed louder. “If I haven’t answered the Indian media there’s no reason why I should answer you. When the right time comes I’ll answer all questions,” said Dhoni, with the smile giving way to a scowl.
As the conference progressed, other English reporters tried a myriad of ways to elicit a juicy quote from Dhoni on the spot-fixing saga. When he did speak, he sounded more like his India Cements, CSKand BCCI boss, N Srinivasan. Asked if the tournament offered an opportunity to restore the reputation of Indian cricket, he said, “I don’t think we have lost reputation because whatever the setup will be throug-hout the world or in any sport, still you’ll have people who will be slightly mentally weak compared to some of the others, and I would have loved to elaborate, but at the right time I’ll do it.” Much like Srinivasan had pinned the scandal, when it first broke, on a “few bad apples”.
Amid all this, Dhoni managed, on one occasion, to show some of that legendary quick wit. Asked on his team composition, he said, “I can’t tell you about the playing XI otherwise the ACSU will be on my case.” Indeed like Srinivas-an, the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit is just another laughing matter for Dhoni!