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When umpiring is sub-standard, how could you blame Dhoni?

MS Dhoni

Bengaluru, April 13: Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni betraying his 'captain cool' tag in an Indian Premier League (IPL) game in Jaipur on April 11 against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) is the latest controversy to have hit the cricketing fraternity.

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain had walked straight onto the ground from the dug-out even though he was dismissed after one of the umpires flip-flopped with a waist-high delivery from Ben Stokes bowled in the last over while the hosts were chasing a target of 152.

The umpire changed his mind even after raising one hand and that left the CSK players, including the non-striker Ravindra Jadeja fuming. Dhoni also walked on to the ground challenging the umpire Ulhas Gandhe.

The episode was not well received by many and former India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi even went to the extent of accusing the authorities as "timid" who, according to him, only "kid-gloved" the veteran cricketer by fining him half of his match fee.

Others said it was unbecoming of a captain and set up a bad precedent. There were also voices that sympathised with Dhoni, saying he too is a human who showed his emotive side in that crunch moment.

Twitter reaction | Fleming's take

The interesting part with the Dhoni episode is that more discussion is being held about how Dhoni, as an individual, could do something he is not known for. The non-alignment of the man's conduct at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium with his perceived image is what has pained people the most in this drama. The thing is: Being captain cool has nothing to do with sub-standard execution of a responsibility on a high stage like the IPL which though is a domestic tournament but has enough international element attached to it.

Dhoni's action was nothing but a reaction to something he felt was ordinary and did not live up to the reputation of umpiring: the fourth most significant aspect attached to the game. And we need also to keep in mind that umpiring is something which has been consistently poor in this IPL and some of the superstars of Indian cricket are clearly disgusted with it.

No obligation to be 'captain cool'

The CSK captain doesn't have a bigger onus of serving his 'cool' image in public and is concerned more about ensuring the propriety of the game that he found lacking in Jaipur the other night.

If the purists give the same reason every time that "umpires too are human", then Dhoni too has every right to seek shelter under the same. But if the umpires are escaping with a little criticism and a lot of sympathy even after committing some grave mistakes that can be easily avoided, then there lies a grave hypocrisy in calling Dhoni's act a bad precedent.

The traditionalists can still go on debating whether Dhoni did it right by barging into the ground. To them, it is not something that has happened for the first time in a cricket ground. And to expect Victorian values to be intact in the age of cut-throat competition is perhaps far too much.

It would have been interesting to see how the world reacted had Virat Kohli, the 'rough boy' of Indian cricket, did the same. Perhaps the criticism would not have as thumping since the purists would not have found it too detached from Kohli's aggressive public image.

Perhaps not many would have uttered "he too is a human" phrase either because the human being in Kohli is already perceived to be a rebel. But in case of Dhoni, it was like the good boy did a murder and hence the weight of the 'crime' was far too heavier.

The same Dhoni had once obliged Lara

To round it off, the same Dhoni in his younger days had agreed to walk off the ground during a Test match in the Caribbeans in 2006 after a much senior Brian Lara had asked him to following a dubious catch at the boundary.

In the video footage, the man with his the then locks was lending his ears with patience even as a visibly agitated Lara was speaking to him. After the Jaipur fiasco, let's not start bashing up Dhoni thinking the same man has also abided by the gentleman's spirit in the past by not crossing swords with an angry senior cricketer even if there was ample scope to do so.

It's enough of Dhoni. Now, let's also talk about setting a good precedent in umpiring. What say?

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Story first published: Saturday, April 13, 2019, 14:41 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 13, 2019