The eternal question — does destiny influence our actions or do our actions determine our destiny — springs to mind whenever I think of MS Dhoni and his spectacular career as captain of the Indian team.
The Lord's defeat is behind us and the Nottingham Test is fraught with many possibilities, including an Indian revival, like has happened quite often recently. A lot has been written on the stinging loss, the reasons behind it and the strength of this Indian team to bounce back. Unlike in the past, adversity brings the best out of this team, the reason why it is still the Number 1 team in the world.
Luck and bravery
Dhoni, who defied conventional logic, and came ahead of an in-form Yuvraj, to bat in the World Cup final and crowned himself with glory, is a man whose belief in himself and his decisions are an admirable facet of his personality.
He has made many controversial moves in the past and more often than not, the dice has fallen in his favour, like the T20 World Cup final against Pakistan, where he trusted a rookie like Joginder Sharma over more experienced bowlers to bowl the last over of the match. Had Misbah's audacious scoop over fine-leg dodged Sreesanth's outstretched hands, Dhoni would have been in the dock, who knows, not even given the Indian captaincy ever again.
The dictum that luck favours the brave is an oft repeated cliché, but in Dhoni's case it has almost always proved true, be it the T20 World Cup final or the ODI World Cup. In the final at Mumbai, he made a tactical move of which he himself was the originator as well as the executioner. Failure here was no option since the stakes were too high. Dhoni, like many times in the past, dared destiny and conquered it.
Cut to the Lord's Test. Stung by injury to his match-winner, Zaheer Khan, and short of bowlers, Dhoni makes another daring move, discards his pads, and turns over his arm. The very first ball almost wins him an LBW verdict against the man who later was to take away the match from India —Pietersen. He gets a second opportunity, a caught behind verdict in his favour from the umpire, but that scourge of Indian hopes — DRS — reverses that decision. The talismanic Dhoni’s face, celebrating with his teammates yet another moment of personal triumph, turns ashen. Luck this time does not favour the brave.
There has been a lot of criticism of this Indian team after the Lord's defeat and Dhoni has had to bear the brunt of it. His captaincy has been questioned on many fronts, which is not surprising, given the extremes in which we function as a society and reaction to sporting achievements and failures being just one of the symptoms of that malaise.
One swallow does not make a summer nor does one failure become catastrophic. This Indian team is capable of taking care of itself and if it can’t, it deservingly would lose its champion status.
What should worry all those who, like one of the characters in Shakespeare's King Lear, believe, “It is the stars…the stars above us, govern our conditions,” is that have the stars deserted Dhoni?