The Indian cricket team leads a fishbowl kind of existence with every fan and expert passing detailed and fierce criticism on the professional and personal life of every player. Mohammed Azharuddin once raised his bat at a spectator threateningly.
There was a stage when the stadium would go “Shastri hai hai” every time Ravi Shastri came in to bat. Sourav Ganguly shared a love-hate relationship with the press.
One of the reasons cited in reports over the quitting of Rahul Dravid as captain pointed to criticism in the media. Greg Chappell once showed his middle finger to an Indian fan.
Once immediately after India won a Test, Harbhajan Singh gesticulated angrily in the direction of the media box.
Read: Harbhajan Singh, the media & a million idiots
MS Dhoni made his international debut in 2004 and soon became an attacking batsman and the lynchpin of our batting. He was the star of our world record 17 ODI chases.
But in the key match against Bangladesh in the 2007 ODI World Cup, he scored a duck. In the must-win match against Sri Lanka he scored another duck.
Such dark phases come in all great players’ lives, but instead of understanding that, angry fans pelted stones at Dhoni’s house which was under construction.
That was a very cruel thing to do and what must have gone through the minds of Dhoni and his family we can only imagine. He was soon given the extra burden of captaincy. How would he cope when so many greats had perished as captain including Sachin Tendulkar?
However Dhoni has not only become the first captain to win all three ICC tournament trophies, but he has also led us to the No. 1 rankings in all three formats of the game and is also our most successful Test captain.
One of the reasons for him surviving this long is that he has built a bubble around himself and Team India from the fans and many experts. For one, top Indian cricketers stopped reading reports about themselves long back.
Dhoni continued this trend and even said once that keeping aloof from his critics helped him and he didn’t change his game no matter what they said.
His wife Sakshi once told a newspaper when they asked a question, “I am really sorry. I don’t mean to be rude. But, I am not comfortable talking to any media at the moment.” Like husband like wife!
That became Dhoni’s official media policy and the rest of the team followed suit. The BCCI also jumped in and put a gag order on him answering many controversial questions.
Even during the current World Cup, most of the time both fans and reporters were not allowed to meet the Indian cricket team in their hotel rooms for most of the time.
The only time Dhoni has to face the media is during press conferences and that is when he remains as cool as he is on the cricket field and that helps keep the bubble intact.
Sometimes he’ll just smile and move along and sometimes he’ll put his finger on his lips. He’s blunt, sticks to the point and moves on quickly. He knows how to handle the situation.
After the Monkeygate scandal when the media kept badgering him about the condition of the team he remarked that the journalists seemed more troubled than the players!
His calmness has helped him really well for the Indian fan is never satisfied. After completing the ICC tournament troika wins in 2013 one would have thought that the fan would forgive him for anything. Not so.
Later that year Australia toured India. We were trailing 1-2 when a fan pelted stones on Dhoni's house because Dhoni decided to field first!
The biggest tragedy is that India won that series 3-2 and chased 350 twice in a fortnight and still Dhoni found his house being pelted with stones! Indian cricket can be very cruel indeed.
Even after the latest semi-final loss, one TV channel tried to trend #ShameInSydney even though we had won seven matches on the trot before that and had lost to the No. 1 ranked team on their home turf.
It’s a sad loss but not a shame.
Then there’s Kamaal R Khan @kamaalrkhan who Tweeted…
Virat was so nervous at field tat he dropped 2catches n scored 1run after playing 14balls n all coz Anushka was there 2watch her super man.
This despite Virat Kohli firing in all ICC knockout matches before this tournament. Can you really blame Team India for wanting to live in a bubble?
They still live in a fishbowl but the only difference is that while we can see them, they have blocked us out from their side in a sort of two-way mirror!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://www.sunilrajguru.com/