M.S. Dhoni, former Indian cricketer and captain of Indian cricket team announced his retirement from international cricket recently.
He was once considered demigod of Indian cricket, alongside bigger deities like Sachin Tendulkar and Viral Kohli. His hard-hitting ways suitable for all formats of the game, especially the pigmy format of modern cricket, T-20 had him successfully chase targets to take his team and a cricket-crazy nation to victory. His ability to successfully chase insurmountable targets had the nation of 1.3 million crown him with superlative adages viz; ‘captain cool’ and ‘best finisher cricket has had’.
Paradoxically, news of his retirement was most sought after and awaited by the very 1.3 million who had once worshipped him.
What caused this paradox? It was brought about in Old Trafford in late evening of July 14 2019 when India met New Zealand in the World Cup semifinal. India needed 240 to qualify for finals. New Zealand bowlers ripped through an invincible Indian top order. It was left to Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni to see India home. There weren’t many wickets left. The run rate was climbing. A cricket-crazy nation, which had made religion of the game had unflinching faith in ‘God’ Dhoni. He had already carved crucial 100-run partnership with jadeja. That wasn’t enough. With jadeja gone, it was left to the once ‘captain cool’ to take India into the finals. Every run counted. In the penultimate over Dhoni attempted to convert a single into two. But a direct throw by New Zealand’s Martin Guptill found Dhoni’s bat miss the crease by ‘a few inches’. India lost by 18 runs.
These ‘few inches’ that seemed like many a mile caused the abovementioned paradox. ‘a few inches’ separated India from the World Cup of 2019. When Dhoni walked back to the pavilion, silence of a stunned nation sounded thunderous with demand for his scalp. To them, he was a traitor who let down 1.3 billion dreams. ‘a few inches’ made them forget the magical six the same man had scored off Sri Lanka’s Kulasekara to bag the world cup in 2011, when India needed only 4!
Watching Dhoni walk back to the pavilion on TV had me draw parallel with a young Jewish carpenter who walked upon the Earth 2,000 years ago. He too was the darling of the masses in West Asia of His time. This young man dared to call himself ‘Son of God’. Something drastically heretic to Chief Priests and self-proclaimed custodians of Jewish religiosity, which was a commodity steeped in hypocrisy, double-standards and extreme orthodoxy. This young Man had the daring to stake claim to sonship of Jehovah God. A thorn in the flesh to Jewish religious scheme of things. He was the favourite of simple folk. Because He performed miracles that appeared magical. He raised the dead, cured lepers, the blind, deaf, paralyzed, and the bleeding. He even turned water to wine. He walked on water, and calmed the seas. Ordinary folk were impressed. Who wouldn’t be impressed with magic, after all? To actualize His calling, the young Jewish carpenter entered Jerusalem on a donkey, true to his lowly import. Simple folk sensed an opportunity in this to sing paeans and shower praises on this unassuming magician who dared to be different and defy Jewish orthodoxy. They carpeted the street on which he rode with their cloaks and palm leaves hailing ‘God’s son’, and shouting hosannas in this name. Less than a week later, the young carpenter was punished by angry Jewish priestdom in connivance with the occupying Romans. Punished for exposing their doublespeak, hypocrisy and blind orthodoxy. Pilate, the Governor of Roman Judean Province caved in to Jewish high priests’ demand to have Him executed. Crowd of ordinary Jews thronging outside Pilate’s gates demanded ‘crucify Him’. These were the very people who shouted Hosannas to him only a few days back. The helpless and bewildered Pilate gave into popular demand. He judged ‘crucify Him’. The rest is History. When the young carpenter walked up to Calvary under a merciless sun, with blood and sweat dripping down His face, bearing the heavy cross, he was a picture of loneliness and crestfallenness. Nobody stopped the horrific murder. The blind, the deaf and lepers he had healed were nowhere to be seen. Even His friends deserted Him.
Human memory has extremely short shelf-life. Nobody stands by a fallen hero. Nor would anybody help one back to the feet. The magic once spun by the condemned is hardly remembered. Only the fall is remembered. Fragile is human memory, but more grotesque is the ingratitude that accompanies this fragility.