Mahendra Singh Dhoni has played true to form when it comes to dealing with the media.
It was understandable, and only right, that he requested the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel to allow him to announce his Test retirement to his team before the official press release lands up in the inboxes of journalists the world over.
It is not too difficult to comprehend why Dhoni would go to a media conference to talk about the drawn Test in Melbourne and not mention his retirement after he provided his final view of the Test. Surely, it would not be his way to hit back at the Press for talking down the Test side of an otherwise amazing career. We must remember that Dhoni has never been available to the media. He has held it at a disdainful arm’s length, apart from the usual, often-mundane press conferences he turned up for, just because convention dictated that he attend.
Dhoni is a self-made cricketer and worked his way up the ranks without needing the publicity push. He must be hailed for that, but he also has a duty to fulfil to the followers of the game, who want to hear from him about his sudden retirement from the most challenging form of cricket. Representation pic/Getty Images
At the time of writing, the BCCI has not announced any interaction with the media with the former Test captain.
Dhoni is a self-made cricketer and worked his way up the ranks without needing the publicity push. He must be hailed for that, but he also has a duty to fulfill to the followers of the game, who want to hear from him about his sudden retirement from the most challenging form of cricket, a form of the game which he couldn’t quite achieve unprecedented success. The only way he can reach out to his followers in an extensive way (and not 140 characters on Twitter) is the media, whether he likes it or not. This realisation, unfortunately, is lost on a much-loved cricketer.
Media duties are inescapable and as an international captain for six years, Dhoni must know by now. Come the one-day series after the Tests, he will have to make himself available and answer questions about his Test retirement at a time when he should be talking about India’s last competition before the all-important World Cup.
Indian cricket has advanced over the years and has not been coy to embrace methods of other nations in order to be as professional and sensitive — the India cap presentation to a debutant is only one example. But, in affairs concerning the media, they still prefer to be archaic. It is unimaginable for a big announcement to be made in other countries and not make the subject available at a media conference. This may also show the kind of clout Dhoni wields in Indian cricket.
On Tuesday, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel appeared livid while rubbishing reports in the electronic media that Dhoni made his Test retirement decision because he was approaching a liability stage in the team. Patel was justified in smashing such a ridiculous theory, but what stops him from instructing Dhoni to address the media? If such an attitude prevails, then conspiracy theories and innuendo will be treated as self-inflicted.
At the same time, he can come up with some innovative lines at press conferences, like this one after a story appeared in a leading daily about Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan having an argument when the injury to Dhawan in the Brisbane Test caused panic in the dressing room before the start of Day Four. Dhoni decided to be a satirist in response to the fight report: “Virat used a knife and he stabbed Shikhar. When he recovered out of that, we pushed him out to bat. These are all stories. Marvel and Warner bros should pick them up and make a movie out of it. I don’t know where it comes from. If someone from the team has actually told you this, it will be interesting if you give us the name of the individual who said this. This is what has happened because his imagination is really brilliant, and he should be working for Warner Bros or another movie company. And he doesn’t deserve to be in our dressing room because he has created something that hasn’t been there at all. Stuff like that makes good stories for the tabloid, and maybe it helps them sell it. As far as reality is concerned, there is nothing like that.”
Dhoni is well within his rights to trash a story, and he can sure talk about movie companies, but tabloids and selling newspapers? Now, isn’t that getting into uncharted territory, Sir?
Test Team India will miss him. In the words of Nat King Cole, “unforgettable, that’s what you are.”
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor