Dhoni's moment of reckoning: Mahi, play the best shot of your career
Cricket, for all practical purposes, is a gambler's game; all the talent is a waste if luck, even that tiny fraction of it, is not on the right side. It is a fatalistic view of life and wonderful game of cricket but true nevertheless.cricket Updated: Jun 23, 2015 16:58 IST
If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run...
Kenny Rogers (Gambler)
Cricket, for all practical purposes, is a gambler's game; all the talent is a waste if luck, even that tiny fraction of it, is not on the right side. It is a fatalistic view of life and wonderful game of cricket but true nevertheless.
And none would perhaps agree more to this cruel fact of life than Team India's one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the hero of some of India's most memorable cricketing achievements and the leitmotif of the national team's ascension as a formidable unit in limited overs cricket.
Dhoni, the same man who now suddenly finds the knives out for him, the clamour growing for his removal as the one-day captain and perhaps even from the team.
Two one-day matches, by no means, are the true measure of a man's calibre, not after what he has achieved.
But Dhoni knows, like any other cricketer who knows the business side of the bat, that in a country where they are worshipped as gods, the fanatic fans would not take even one loss as a mere aberration.
Dhoni's story now is not about how long he will continue to play but how quickly he will make up his mind and quit with grace.
Many a cricketer, some of them legends, had failed to read the signs and stayed on too long till they had to be virtually forced out. Even the god of cricket Sachin Tendulkar had made the same mistake and hung on and on till he was nudged out, politely though, given the stature he held.
The Australians, however, are a different story altogether and Ricky Ponting is a classic example. He bowed out of the game at a time when many agreed there were still a couple of years of cricket left in him. He was still the undisputed leader of the team and no pressure on him to quit.
Yet he went, riding into the sunset like the hero he was. It was a true moment of putting team above self.
It is not for nothing that Australia dominates cricket like no other team, not even the all-conquering Windies of the seventies and eighties.
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith did it too, surprising the world by quitting at a time nobody expected it. He too was not finished yet.
The moment of reckoning has come for Dhoni too. But his offer for stepping aside as captain after the loss to Bangladesh only appears as a ploy to gain sympathy and hang in there. But that won't do any good for him.
Nobody has any doubt that Dhoni will always be remembered as one of the greatest limited overs players and captains to have taken to the field. And he must leave it at that. And not wait for Old Father Time to cast his evil shadows and eclipse the achievements of India's Mahi.
If he plays it well, it will be MSD's best-timed shot of his incredible career.
(The writer is an arm-chair cricket pundit who has never played the game like so many paid experts in the country. Views expressed are personal. He tweets @diary_of_a_hack)