Goodbye MSD…your calmness off and on the field shall be missed..

What a difference time makes and how thongs turn around. There was a time when media and experts could not get enough praising MS Dhoni and called him captain with the Midas touch. And why not. Ever since he took over captaincy, India won T-20 world cup, got no.1 rankings in Tests and then the World Cup in 2011. This was followed by Champions trophy in 2013 and couple of more IPL titles.

And come to 2014 and experts have been criticising MSD for nearly every ill in Indian cricket team. The Aussie experts which have harsh words for most Indian players called him a product which is pass his date and so on. I so wish MSD had hung around and answered them the way Sachin Tendulkar did when similar words were said to him after 2007 WC debacle.

MSD in a way was quite a character. Someone who got captaincy as there was no consistent performer in his age group. There were people like Harbhajan, Sehwag, Yuvraj etc but they were hardly as consistent as MSD was in his younger days. Someone who wanted to be a footballer and became a cricketer instead, getting captaincy was another such chancy event. He was just a terrific hitter who could keep wickets.

He came in during the time when wicket keeping was defined by likes of Adam Gilchrist who was also a terrific batter who could keep wickets. Teams after teams were looking for such a batter and MSD fit the bill amazingly. There was a time when there was some competition for the wk slot but very quickly he monopolised it. The selectors did not have to go anywhere. He took whatever chance he got and created enormous value around his batting prowess. Having come from a place which hardly had a decent cricket team, the transition was simply amazing.

If there is one quality barring his exceptional batting in crunch situations, it was his calmness both on and off the field. I mean one could make it an adjective like ‘Dhonisque’. No situation bothered him and unruffled him. Both the victory and losses were accepted in a very calm fashion. Whether it was a tense over behind the wickets or in front of the wickets, his face suggested nothing at all. He avoided all the media tamasha and stayed away from it. A lesson which he perhaps learnt in 2007 WC debacle where his house was stoned as media went berserk after the loss.

There was this certain dignity around whatever he did. And even the way he left was just amazing and emotionless. Not a word or a hint during the ceremony after the match and did not really look at a farewell match. Perhaps he gained from an exceptionally humble and successful bunch of seniors he led as a captain. People like Dravid and Laxman too retired without any fuss.

A word or two about the experts ringing words and phrases like India now has a young dynamic captain and so on. Similar words were said about Dhoni too when he came in  as well. This time is not really different as experts make it out to be.

In Indian cricket (and other walks of life), there is always this fascination for building  brand icons and not good teams. There is too much attention on performance of individual players at the cost of the team. We celebrate players 100s irrespective of whether the team won or lost. The thing is completely opposite in teams like Australia where people just don’t care about individuals. As a result. Aus has recouped really fast after their tremendous players retiredf in quick fashion. Even this series, India is much better than Aus on paper but results are not. Aus is actually fighting to put a fit eleven on the field. As a result, when it comes to critical moments in the series Aussies grabbed it as the team rallied for each other.

The same applies to other areas as well where scant attention is paid on building and sustaining institutions. People come and go. But if the organisation is instutionalised, it does not affect the performance. Most countries which have grown in a sustained manner have grown in this fashion. But we are more focused on individuals rather than institutions.

This is a big challenge for both Kohli and BCCI going ahead. How to build a team that wins rather than have players who score centuries/break records and team does not win.  It will be really difficult as the team is again built around the individual Captain Kohli.  So far it worked as Dhoni calmed things at the other end, let’s see how things are managed under the new aggressive captain. The aggression only looks good when things are going good and rest of times it is just plain ugly.

So once again. Great seeing you play MSD. See you again in ODIs and T20s. I have a feeling he will retire from all forms after WC 2015..

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