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By Sunil Gavaskar
Irrespective of what happens to the rest of his cricketing career, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will always be remembered for winning the 2011 World Cup with that magnificent six into the crowd, at the Wankhede stadium. Not only that, but the way he just stood there watching the ball sail into the crowd and then nonchalantly swished the bat around in his left hand is an indelible memory and brings the goosebumps even now. If any gesture truly signified cool it was that. Here was a shot to win the World Cup and fulfil the dreams and aspirations of a cricket mad nation after 28 years of wait and the perpetrator of that moment was just so so cool when all else around him was pure bedlam. Having met him a few days after that super moment, I told him that if I know that my time is up in this world then I would love to see that shot and then leave with a smile on my face.
Cricket being the great leveller has now brought about the turn of the wheel where the much adored skipper is being the target of the ire of Indian cricket supporters.
One of the many admirable qualities of the Indian skipper is his willingness to front up to the media when the team is not doing well. We all know that he is hardly in the frame of the photos when the trophy is being passed on in the team and it’s the fringe players and support staff, who are invariably in the front row of the photos splashed all round India and the world. On the days when the Indian team has done well he sends the player who has done well to meet the media, but when the team has been defeated he is the one who goes to bear the fury of the media. He has said that he is prepared to be the punching bag if it means that the pressure on the rest of his team is diluted. It takes supreme courage and confidence to go to a media conference when the team has lost and that too immediately after the match is over when all you want to do is to sit back and think what went wrong and analyse the game. The questions from the media will be sharp and extremely irreverent and more often than not bordering on perceptions, gossip and not real knowledge. To be able to handle all that with a smile and patience is a truly wonderful quality and what the media should understand is that by doing so he is helping them in their jobs. It shows an awareness and appreciation of the difficulty that the media has in doing its work and in his own unfussy manner, the Indian skipper is doing his bit for the media. Despite being pilloried in the media in recent times he understands their stress and is willing to help. The four pillars of the game are players, administration, media and the fans. When they work well then the fifth pillar the sponsors come on board to strengthen the structure and give it the muscle that it needs.
What the Indian skipper's regular interaction with the media tells is the respect and understanding of their role in making this game popular. Hopefully the media will also appreciate that and while that should not mean that there should be no criticism of him they should now be able to distinguish from who really appreciate their difficulties and those who refuse to meet them, and thus show their contempt and do their work through their public relations agencies. They also have their own men in the media who will write what they want to be written about themselves and so get their views expressed through their men in the media. They know that the media needs them more than they need the media and while they have their own spokespersons in the media they don’t really have to meet anybody.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni may not stay too long as the skipper of the Indian team looking at the way the Indian team is doing at the moment. As always the clamour will be for a change at the top rather than dropping the non performing players. If that happens then the media better pray that the next person who takes over appreciates their difficulties as much as the current skipper does.