India demands much of its heroes and if the captain of the Indian cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni should lose his job after the team’s exit from the T20 World Cup, he will become another victim of the famed hero-to-zero syndrome that defines celebrity in India.
History, which has a more factual view of greatness, will remember Dhoni as the captain under whom India won a T20 World Cup in 2007, the Cricket World Cup in 2011, and climbed to the top of the Test rankings.
Still, signs of Dhoni’s fall from grace have been there for the past year, ever since the team won the World Cup.
Thanks to the barrage of criticism that has followed disastrous tours to England and Australia and the recent journey to Sri Lanka for the T20 World Cup, the aura that once surrounded the man has begun to fade. (Not all the criticism is unjustified. Numbers show that India have won a mere 10 of the 29 T20 games they have played under Dhoni, a statistical record that is dismal even in a format that is more dependent on chance than any other.)
Captain Cool now looks more like Captain Bemused.
The sheer daredevilry of a man biding his time till the very end, and then lashing out with his bat to win the game now looks like downright foolhardiness.
His young ‘uns, who once believed they could, are no longer as young; nor do they believe as much. The man himself is now 31.
And other narratives, not all of them about cricket, have overtaken the story of the big hitter from Jharkand.
Maybe Dhoni’s time is done.
In 2007, Indian cricket’s biggest requirement was to move beyond personalities and forge a team, largely out of a bunch of talented young cricketers. As an outsider, Dhoni was the ideal candidate to make this happen. Now the personalities are mostly gone (although new ones are emerging in their stead), and the challenge is different—to find a new core around which the Indian team can be rebuilt.
Then again, maybe Dhoni is the person to perform this task too.