Mahendra Singh Dhoni losing his cool over the umpiring in the melodramatic last over in Chennai’s match over Rajasthan was an unedifying sight. I think he was lucky to get away with being docked just 50 per cent of his match fee.
It was a tense match, nerves were frayed and doubtless the umpiring in that particular instance was highly questionable. But this was no excuse for the ugly flare-up which saw Dhoni storm on to the field to remonstrate the decision.
This was totally out of character as Dhoni has earned the sobriquet ‘Captain Cool’ precisely for his ability to keep his emotions in check under the most daunting and provocative situations.
Dhoni is among the stellar players in the world. His body of work is stupendous. Moreover, I can’t think of another instance when he has crossed the boundary, so to speak. Yet, nobody is exempt from human frailty, and when something unseemly occurs, it hardly helps in trying to brush it under the carpet. The best and strongest among us accept errors and resolve not to repeat them.
If he has seen the replays of the altercation (as he must have), Dhoni would have been terribly disappointed with himself. The readiness with which he accepted the match referee’s verdict and fine would suggest that.
Yet, even a first time offence must get commensurate, not just token punishment, for the right message to go out to everybody concerned. The match referee handled the matter in a namby-pamby way in my opinion.
What it could establish is a ‘class system’ in which big guns can get away lightly, but small fry can be roasted for similar misdemeanour. That can have a two-fold effect: big-ticket players can get emboldened, lesser known players will get resentful.
Perhaps the even more important aspect is the impact this can have on budding cricketers and young fans. Dhoni is an iconic figure, whom millions idolize and want to emulate at every level.
They might be led to believe that if Dhoni does it, and the worst punishment is a paltry fine (in the scale of the IPL, these are paltry), then losing temper on the field of play is kosher.
I think a harsher punishment would have been in order to emphasise that the sport is above everything and everyone else.
Meanwhile, high-pitched action continues in the IPL though this week-end the greater attention and discussion will undoubtedly be on the World Cup squad which will be announced on Monday.
Suspense over a couple of places lingers. Who will fill the two remaining places has remained unanswered because there haven’t been thoroughly convincing performances by those in the running.
The places open are essentially in the top order. This is a tad ironical. A year back in South Africa with Rahane, Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli, Rahul and Rayudu in sterling form, it appeared India’s batting for the World Cup was settled.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride after that. Rahane lost his place in the squad, Rahul lost his place in the team for an off field misdemeanour, and Rayudu suddenly lost form in the past couple of months.
Of the slots available, one is understudy to MS Dhoni. Rishabh Pant versus Dinesh Karthik is a straight face-off here. But the other batting place has several claimants: Rayudu, Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Agarwal to name four.
There may have been a case for including an extra pace bowler as back-up against any of the mainstays breaking down, but in the circumstances the selectors and team management would rather hedge on the batting.
The bowling department is well-served in both pace and spin. The fast bowlers pick themselves after superb performances all of last year, as do the two wrist-spinners.
Jadeja, who was out of the squad, forced himself into the reckoning by delivering every time he was picked. He is useful with the bat lower in the order and brilliant fielder.
The return of all-rounder Hardik Pandya, now fully fit, gives a cutting edge to both departments. Vijay Shankar (pace) and Kedar Jadhav (spin) can also fill in a few overs every now and then.
Here’s my pick for the World Cup. As can be seen, I’m undecided between Rahul, in whom so much has been invested, and Agarwal, who has been in glorious touch in the last 6-8 months in all formats. Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan, Vijay Shankar, Agarwal/Rahul, Dhoni, Jadhav, Pant, Pandya, Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar, Shami, Kuldeep, Chahal, Bumrah....