Cloak and dagger — intrigue, mystery, mayhem — and Indian cricket are inseparable. The recent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) elections — if one can describe the unanimous victory of office bearers (mostly friends and family of former heads and politicos) led by president Sourav Ganguly (cricketer) and secretary Jay Shah (the cricket administrating son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah) as an election process that is — had no voting and more behind the scenes drama. The newly ‘elected’ suits have taken charge at the BCCI headquarters and brought with them fresh stories of intrigue and mystery.
The BCCI has began its business in earnest — speculations, and insider info alike hint at a soon to arrive nitpicking session (read: bullying) with the International Cricket Council (ICC) on many issues, including revenue sharing. The end of the tenure of Committee of Administrators (CoA) and the beginning of the Ganguly-Shah rule in the BCCI seems to have changed things at the national team set-up too, obviously, despite contrary claims.
The past few years have seen the meteoric rise of Virat Kohli as the power centre around which all variables, including the Indian cricket team selection committee, revolved. With democracy — an Indian cricket version of it that is — returning to the Board, the old tales of intrigue and discord looks set to return in the team. Unless of course there is a different way to interpret the esoteric and conflicting news coming out of the national team set-up.
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The BCCI’s boardroom drama, and an impending show of might at the ICC, need not be of any interest to us. After all, the Indian Board can only get rich in the process. Let the lesser Boards worry about the implications, which could also hasten the rate of decay of the game across the globe. Our immediate concern, as always, is and should centre around our superstars. No one is getting married, though. So, it is about the second most juicy grapevine — MS Dhoni's retirement (from the cricket team, not the army). All the more since Dhoni — full-time former World Cup winning skipper and part-time soldier — is the aggrieved party here.
So, time is up for Dhoni’s international career, isn't it? No? Yes? Well, it is not just the fans who are unsure about Dhoni’s future. The Board, and the cricketer, are on different pages too. On October 25, the two-time World Cup winning skipper was mentioned in reports saying he is set to train with the Jharkhand Under-23 side to get himself back into prime form for the World T20 next year. On the same day, in another part of the country, selection committee chairman MSK Prasad spoke to the media saying Rishabh Pant, the unpredictable, immature wicket-keeper batsman from Delhi, would get attention over Dhoni.
Dhoni was not included in the T20 squad for India's home series against Bangladesh starting on November 3.
“We're looking at younger options after the World Cup, so you can understand our thought process. We definitely had a chat with Dhoni and he also endorses our view of backing youngsters,” Prasad said after announcing the squad.
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“We are moving on, we are very clear. Post World Cup we have been clear. We started backing [Rishabh] Pant and wanted to see him do well. He may not have had the best of matches but we are clear, we are focusing on him only,” he added.
Prasad’s claim that Dhoni has endorsed the Board’s view seems blank though. Especially since the 38-year-old, who went on a tangential ‘defense service’ in Jammu and Kashmir after the failure of the national side at the ICC World Cup earlier this year, is reportedly planning a slow but steady comeback into not just domestic but international limited-overs cricket.
Dhoni is clearly not ready to give up on his international career. While the future of the Indian cricket team is a question that needs the selfless understanding from all, including the former skipper, he seems focused on his personal milestone more than anything else. And, Prasad would have obviously heard of those reports too but chose to stick to his version of the narrative. Future beckons after all.
Not sure if it is just me… But doesn't the whole episode sounds like deja vu. For Dhoni, and for Board president Ganguly.
The year was 2008. Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid as well, were asked to be kept out of the Indian squad travelling to Australia for a tri-series. Guess who the skipper was at that point? Captain Cool had said the senior duo were bad fielders and also that he needed youngsters in the squad keeping in mind the World Cup at home in 2011. Now, with shades of grey, and prominent shades of uncool creeping into Dhoni’s gameface, it seems that the time for a role reversal has arrived.
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Of course, it is all but coincidence that Ganguly is at the helm of the Board when Indian cricket is preparing to ease Dhoni out of his national team commitments. There is no deja vu here. There is no undercurrents or return of favours here. Just like there was none in the three-day window a fortnight or so back when Ganguly made the quick metamorphosis from a former captain to the president elect of the BCCI.
That was perhaps the left-hander's magic! The Dhoni episode is sheer inevitability! With the Indian Board, one can never be too sure, though. Cloak and Dagger, after all!
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