Not many have the poise of prose and the dexterity of language as Harsha Bhogle. One of world’s finest spokesmen of cricket, Harsha Bhogle, speaks and speaks for all. Be it jubilation, or downright disappointment, Harsha Bhogle has been the voice of millions in expressing our thoughts for everything happening on the field. Millions would agree that, whenever he is on the mic, there’s a different level of excitement and thrill to watching a match. Mr.Harsha Bhogle, of course apart from his commentary, is a fabulous analyser of the game and the elements involved in it. Someone, who can dissect and decimate the game in ways no one else can. The cricketing world came to a sudden halt when M.S.Dhoni declared his retirement from captaincy from all formats of the game last night. This, of course, had many great personalities of the game to speak out their mind. As did Mr.Harsha Bhogle. The following statement, more so an Ode to M.S.Dhoni has been derived from Harsha Bhogle’s facebook page and is as relevant and informative as anything can be. It allows us a peek into the mind of one of the greatest sportsperson of our generation, M.S.Dhoni.
“I don’t think anyone knew Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I don’t think anyone was meant to.
I certainly didn’t know him very well. I had dinner with him once and it was revealing. He had come over to the apartment we were at in Adelaide. My colleague had cooked, I was warming the pre-cooked chapattis and he came over and said he would do it himself. He talked freely. When he had finished dinner, he picked up his plate, walked across to the basin, washed it and placed it upside down on the platform next to it. He volunteered to wash the other plates”.
“I tried telling him that he must speak to India’s cricket lovers more often. He nodded and smiled. Of course, he didn’t. But I got the feeling that evening that I was talking to someone who was not trapped by the game. We all are, in some ways, because cricket offers us so much. It fills our lives, but that evening, I got the feeling that Dhoni was in it and yet detached. He talked about bikes, about planes, about guns, about wanting to become a sniper! I remember telling my colleague, “I won’t be surprised if he just walks away from the game and never comes back.”
“In a nation that is obsessed with being centre-stage, I am not sure he ever sought it. Remember the long-haired new captain who had just won India the first World T20? He had given away his match shirt to someone in the crowd and was walking away quietly. The more suave captain who had won India the World Cup of 2011? Spot him in any of the pictures? He let it be Sachin Tendulkar’s moment. He let it be about Indian cricket. It wasn’t about him and he didn’t force himself into every frame. It was, actually, his evening but he looked at it from afar”.
“I thought it was cool. The sign of a confident man. He made a statement by not being there. I don’t know if that is cool today but he rose in my eyes. I tell the story because it helps us understand the person and therefore, what he has just done.
What he did in Test cricket was remarkable. He took his rustic game, the firm jab, the slash over point, and he squeezed more out of it than you would have thought possible. An average of 38 is excellent for someone who did as many squats behind the stumps as he did, for someone who had to be in the game always. It is very, very difficult to be a wicket-keeper, a captain and a batsman. He did it for 60 Tests. It was remarkable”.
“Yes, it wasn’t his favourite format and that isn’t a crime. It is extremely difficult to captain India overseas for it means taking 20 wickets quickly enough. He didn’t have Anil Kumble, no Harbhajan Singh or Zaheer Khan at their peak; no J Srinath, even S Sreesanth and RP Singh had fallen off a cliff. Eventually, every Indian captain overseas is forced to play a waiting game. You can show bluster for a while, you can set attacking fields but the scoreboard always tells the story. If you can’t take 20 wickets, you can’t win and Dhoni never had that. Towards the end, it affected the way he led the side. We all become creatures of our experience. He knew too that it was time to let someone less wounded by overseas defeats to take over”.
“That is why he liked one-day cricket. It has two logical ends. If you can’t take 10 wickets, you squeeze out 50 overs. In the last couple of years, as bats grew bigger, as end overs hitting became more sophisticated, he struggled there too because his team didn’t take enough wickets early on. But at least you could outscore the opposition over 50 overs. In Test cricket, he couldn’t do that. So India increasingly looked like a side that waited for the opposition to set the game. It was different in India where he had the surfaces that allowed his bowlers to dominate”.
“As a player too, he changed. As everyone does. The bravado that so defined his early innings died away a bit. Youth inevitably morphs into a responsible man. I think he grew up and grew out of the next generation that, like the waves, always comes faster than you think. His best innings have been in limited overs cricket where he competes in a small short list to be India’s finest cricketer. In Test cricket, he was a contributor, not a leader, though those who saw his double century against Australia in Chennai will savour memories of a genuinely great innings. But those didn’t come often. Maybe we are dissatisfied because we compare him to Adam Gilchrist, an extraordinary batsman who kept wickets. Maybe the image of an outstanding limited overs batsman boosted our expectation of him as a Test match batsman. Still, an average of 38 from number seven is not to be laughed at”.
“Of course, he will be missed. His calmness, his dignity on the field. But when the time comes to write a similar story when he finishes with limited overs cricket, we will grow far more wistful. There, he is the poker player, in his element with the cards he holds close to his chest. Oh there, he is a legend, almost incomparable.
What Dhoni achieved, though, goes way beyond the numbers he produced. He told young Indians in small towns that they could conquer the world. To them he was the beacon, he was the dream that maybe they could achieve too. He showed the way. It is a substantial, and wonderful, thing in life to do.
When he finishes there, I don’t think we will know too much more about him though”.
– Harsha Bhogle