When MS Dhoni flew into Birmingham, the face was the same cherubic one that is often adorned with a beatific smile, the body language was relaxed as always, yet the eyes betrayed a deep mistrust. Not of the players he marshalled or the coaching staff he had placed his faith on, but rather of the Fourth Estate. He left India in silence, he maintained it stoically when he came to the British Isles, but sometimes the words that echo the loudest are the ones never spoken.
The T20 League spot-fixing controversy had snowballed into a full-blown avalanche. None were spared, not even the skipper. Dhoni’s own conflict of interest was dug up from the archives and played out again. His players weren't spared either. More irksomely, though, his wife Sakshi was also dragged into the media storm. Photos surfaced of her with Vindoo Dara Singh, who was alleged to have been the facilitator between bookies and the
Dhoni has a fine way of insulating the squad when on tour — he makes sure no newspapers are delivered at their hotel rooms, he tells the players not to watch television channels or log online to keep a track of all the stories that are published about them.
When his wife was dragged in, though, Dhoni's relationship with the media, which is fractured at the best of times (he's given one interview in the past four years, that too unknowingly as a TV channel put in fine print an exclusive interview clause while conferring him their year-end award), completely broke down.
In public he's not said much, but in private conversations he's expressed disgust at the ways of the Fourth Estate and their inquisitive and hounding nature.
All that bad blood, however, was just an afterthought as India beat England in a thrilling Champions Trophy final. As he made his way to the post-match media conference his faced had a gratified look. He was back to answering questions. He was back to being Captain Cool.
Asked about his motivational speech before India went out to defend a small target, he gave a customary headline-grabbing soundbyte, “Nobody looks to the left of the pavilion. That's the side that the rain was coming from. So, I said God is not coming to save us. If you want to win this trophy, we'll have to fight it out. We are the number one ranked ODI side, so let's make sure that they have to fight for these 130 odd runs.”
Capping it all
The win meant Dhoni has now won every major ICC tournament as skipper — the 2007 World T20, the 2011 ODI World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. Tell him about it, and he just shrugs it off as a statistical footnote. “I never turn up on the field to achieve something as a captain. For me, winning the game is very important, and that is of utmost importance for us as a team.”