An open letter to MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni… Silence is not always golden.

Dear Dhoni,

At the outset, let me confess that I am among your greatest admirers. For many reasons:

a. For your batting skills, the kind you displayed in scoring that magnificent 113 after India were virtually down and out at 29 for five against Pakistan last year, and for that epic 224 against an Australian attack powered by Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle earlier this year, also at Chennai.

b. For arguably being the best finisher in the overs-limit format.

c. For your ability to remain unflappable like very few in the high-pressure world of international sports.

d. For steering clear of controversies.

e. For not allowing success to go into your head, despite the avalanche of wealth, fame and holding what is one of the most pressured jobs in the country, and coping up brilliantly with crazed expectations and equally crazy fans.

f. Lastly, for taking India to hitherto peaks not scaled.

But I must confess that I was disappointed to see the warrior in you, the man who has always defied mind-numbing odds, reduced to a mannequin at the media conference before the team left for the Champions Trophy, gagged by the obvious diktats of a man who is your boss at three levels — as President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), as owner of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and as the Managing Director of India Cements, where you are employed as Vice-President (VP).

A section of your supporters may come to your defence by saying that even if you hadn’t been VP of India Cements, Srinivasan was still the boss — and a dictatorial one at that — who you could not have gone against. It would tantamount to insubordination.  While I do agree that it’s important to carry out the orders of the boss, one cannot and should not be blindly subservient. Especially on an issue that a nation is outraged and what is palpably wrong.

Cricket, it is said, is a religion in our country. That being the case, N Srinivasan is an iconoclast. By being a mute witness and not standing up for what is right in the present imbroglio raging Indian cricket, you have hurt millions of fans who understandably feel let down.

You don’t need the vice-presidency of India Cements and the perks that comes along with it as one of the richest sportsmen in the world listed by Forbes. You could have simply stopped the BCCI censor at the press conference and chose to answer. You have been an international captain for far too long to steer clear of landmines at press conferences. You could have said, “Our team is embarking on an important mission and its best for the country and all cricket fans that we stay focused on the job ahead, leaving the job of looking into the spot-fixing for the concerned authorities. I’m sure you guys appreciate what I’m saying.”

You had any number of options before you to answer, without giving anything away, than just staying impervious to the questions of the media, who were just conveying the sentiments of the nation. The stance you took was most regrettable and insensitive, which you may have realised later in quietude, but may not choose to admit it publicly.

What could Mr Srinivasan have done? Sack you? He wouldn’t have dared to, because by choosing to address the cricket fans who made you, and by speaking as a nationalist, you would have emerged a hero of monumental proportions. You would have unequivocally shown that your love for your country and its image in the eyes of the world was more important than the money you got from the game. You would have been the paragon of all virtuous; a model of excellence for the millions of youngsters who are looking up to you. Most importantly, it could have expedited the exit of Srinivasan and even set the ball rolling for cleaning up the rot that exists in Indian cricket. Sadly, you lost what would have been the biggest moment of your life.
Skipper, in conclusion, I leave you with the thought of Dr Martin Luther King, that champion who fought the oppressive white America: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

Best wishes,

H Natarajan

(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at twitter/hnatarajan)