18 August 2020



M.S. Dhoni has retired from all forms of international cricket. ‘There goes a legend,’ sums up the sentiments expressed by one and all. Now ‘MS’ scored just six centuries in 90 tests. His test average is a middling 38.09. He had greater at-wicket presence in ODIs, with an average of 50.57 in 350 matches. His glove-work is certainly impressive, accounting for 256 catches and 38 stumpings in tests (321 catches and 123 stumpings in ODIs).

He was a leader and this makes raises the worth of the above numbers. A level-headed finisher, he was also a master at damage control when things got out of hand. Countless are the times when he stepped in to bring sanity when India’s top order had gone insane. No wonder then that he is often referred to as Mister Cool or Captain Cool.

He was cool. Dhoni seldom showed emotion. He had absolute focus. Rarely fazed, regardless of the match-situation or tempers that had frayed. It was as though he had abstracted himself from all that was extraneous to the particular job at hand, be it farming the strike or getting to a place where risks could be taken in a tight or even seemingly impossible chase.

There are debates over who was ‘cooler,’ Dhoni or Rahul Dravid. Now Arjuna Ranatunga is sometimes thought of as ‘Captain Cool’ (of that time) but that’s a misnomer. He was cool to the extent that he was never overawed by the names, reputation or even the gamesmanship and below-the-belt operations of the opposition. He had his Dhoni-like moments and was a hero in his own right. Perhaps it is unfair to compare, Dhoni having entered the scene as Arjuna was leaving. Let’s say both seemed to have resolved not to let emotion best reason. Both were thinking cricketers. Thinking skippers. Cool men.

Coolness is not something one is born with. Well, one might have a cool gene but it needs to be cultivated. How does one cultivate coolness?

There are no easy answers. We are all human. We all have emotions. We experience joy and sorrow and are often carried away by them. A good shot (in cricket) can lift us and also rob us of just that fraction of concentration that will make for an error that costs dearly. A bowler who gets carted out of the park can lose his line and length.

It’s important to be in the moment of the six or the wicket-taking delivery, enjoy it, and then put it aside. It is important to get one’s wits under control after a bad moment, re-take the guard, so to speak. Get back on track, in other words. For every single delivery, every single moment on the field. Every innings, every match. Season after season.  

Of course being cool won’t give you Tendulkar-like stats, but it helps you be the best you can be or at least close to that.

It’s all about temperament. The mind. It’s perhaps like an actor ‘getting into character’ before making his/her entrance, before speaking his/her lines.

People like MS set examples. They set standards. That’s why they are legends. They are cool beyond compare. On and off the field. That has to take discipline at some level. A lot has to happen before we can taste the fruit of our labor. Got to prepare the soil, got to tend the tender sampling, got to fertilize, got to protect from pests, got to harvest carefully. Works in agriculture. Works in sports.  

And MS, thanks for the moments. Thanks for the years. And for teaching us that one way to keep the heat on is to remain cool.

This article was published in 'The Morning' [August 17, 2020]

Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']

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