The sight of vandals tearing down MS Dhoni’s house under construction in Ranchi is more revealing than the collapse of the Indian cricket team against Bangladesh. The media itself is as culpable of contributing to mob hysteria. The Ranchi vandals claimed to be from the Jharkand Yuva Morcha; they clearly enjoyed being filmed and photographed as they kicked down the bricks being raised for the house of a local hero. They obviously relished media attention.
Newspapers have built up the Men in Blue into demi-gods. Television raised them higher with visuals picturing them in athletic poses. Copywriters, for whom reality is no hindrance, outdid the journalists. The Men in Blue strode the ground like conquerors.
The historic attraction and joy of cricket, that it is a game of glorious uncertainties, was obliterated. It was transformed into a gladiatorial contest in which our heroes faced the rest of the world, in which national honour was at stake, in which the contestants could either be heroes or martyrs. The Indian team played badly, as they have before. What was unexpected was Bangladesh’s performance. It was their youth that contributed most to the glorious uncertainty. And Dravid and Co were swept off their feet.
This is a time to praise Bangladesh. It is obviously a time to rethink Indian strategy. But can there be a worse time to threaten players caught off-guard? To demolish the house and hopes of one of our most talented young players because he failed to score?
While posing for their pictures, did the Ranchi goons consider the effect the pictures must have on team morale? The tension between a bowler hurling his ball and the batsman guessing what is to come, or, for that matter, the wicket-keeper anticipating which way to leap, is acute. How will Dhoni be affected by thinking what will happen at home as he stands at or behind the crease?
The media must review its unthinking, unbalanced glorification of talented but nervous young men into national icons, raising unreal expectations in the popular mind. The game they are playing, under the greatest of pressures, can always go wrong.