Brain: We need to talk. You’re not going to like this.
Heart: Like I expect anything different from a conversation that begins with “We need to talk”.
B: Look I didn’t want to get into this today, but … What I am trying to say is.. Try as I may, I can’t shake the feeling that..
H: Oh god! Stop being so dramatic. Spill it out!
B: DHONI SHOULD RETIRE. LIKE NOW. There I said it. You happy?
H: Don’t put this on me, ok? I didn’t bring this up. And what do you mean he should retire? Don’t you remember he already retired from international cricket just a few months ago? Don’t you remember the video he posted? Didn’t need a farcical farewell match to bid adieu.. just an old-school slide show of good memories and he was out. Just like that. And the choice of song? Impeccable. Has there ever been a better song to retire to than “Main pal do pal ka shayar hun”? I cried at the sheer poetry of it, never mind the actual retirement. What a legend.
B: Stop fawning over his retirement video. I get it.. it was great. But it was a long time coming. Anyway, I don’t think you understood. I meant he should retire from all cricket.
H: Isn’t it enough that we will never see him don the India jersey again.. now you want to take the IPL away from him too? What is your problem man?
B: It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is true. He is doing a disservice to CSK by sticking around.
H: Disservice to CSK? This is ‘Thala’ you are talking about. He IS the franchise. CSK’s entire history begins and ends with him.
B: And it is just that. History. Let’s talk about the here and now.
H: Look, if you would have said these things about Raina, I wouldn’t have gotten so mad. But this is MS you are talking about and I can’t stand the blasphemy. By the way, didn’t you think it was hilarious that Raina announced his retirement right on the heels of Dhoni’s retirement? Have you ever seen a player so devoted to another?
B: It was pretty hilarious. And it shouldn’t have been so. He was a fine player for India. He deserved to have his very own ‘riding off into the sunset’ moment, not be overshadowed on the day he walked away. ‘Chinna Thala’ till the end, I guess.
H: For months on end, I had been seeing his Instagram videos of workouts and net sessions, preparing hard for the IPL and one week into bio-bubble isolation, he walks out like that? What even happened? I understood his “I am paranoid about leaving my young children and wife behind for months on end in these crazy times” explanation. I mean.. not really, but what are you going to do? Ask him to suck it up and play for the sake of his franchise over his family? No. Raina’s importance to CSK cannot be overstated but you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the guy. It all seemed fishy though.
B: It was, wasn’t it? I couldn’t fathom it. Here is a guy who has been public about his desire to make a comeback for the national team. The IPL is his best chance to put on a show for the selectors. And not only does he retire from international cricket, but also skips the IPL. Very, very fishy indeed..
Woah. I see what you are doing here. Good try. But I won’t let you meander your way out of this conversation. This isn’t about Raina. This is about Dhoni.
H: What about Dhoni huh? What do you want from the guy? He is 39 for gods’ sake and look at him. Name another 39 year old that is fitter than him. I’ll wait.
B: He’s swole, not fit. There is a difference.
H: Oh so now he isn’t fit anymore? Any proof to substantiate this nonsense allegation?
B: Do you remember that chase against SRH where he was all gassed up? Coughing, panting, bending down on his knees trying to catch his breath after every run. When have you seen MSD tire out from running between the wickets? The man never broke a sweat after running for hours on end and that day he looked he like ran a marathon after spending 5 overs at the crease.
H: That’s it? That’s your evidence? These guys are playing in the UAE. Everybody has been struggling from the heat, especially in the early stages of the tournament. Running out of steam in one game is not reason enough to sound the death knell on anybody, least of all MSD.
B: Fair enough. But don’t you think there is more to him getting tired than the UAE heat?
H: That’s a leading question. Don’t trick me into agreeing with you. Just make your point.
B: Alright, I’ll break it down for you – the UAE heat aside (which FYI everybody else was also facing, not him alone and I didn’t notice anybody else gassed like that), he was gassed because he ran 783 doubles in the span of 20 minutes or so … because he cannot clear the boundary at will anymore so he has to do the next best thing – hit the ball as far away as possible and run for his life … because he is 39. It all comes down to that. Remember, Father Time is undefeated. Sooner or later, everybody yields. And he knows that as well. Why else do you think he bulked up? He did that to compensate for his loss in speed. He did that so he wouldn’t have to run between the wickets so much and prioritize boundaries – like a lot of aging batsmen do to prolong their careers. Sadly, that didn’t work either and he ended up running more than he anticipated. And running is even harder for him now with the added weight. Catch-22 and all that.
H: Alright, alright. Ease up. You’ve made your point. But he did hit those 3 massive sixes in the last over against RR, remember? That was vintage Dhoni, right there.
B: That was great. Except it came a little too late. CSK lost by 16 runs, remember? Those sixes were garbage time runs, they don’t count for anything. If Dhoni has that six-hitting ability, why not unleash that a little sooner when the run rate is under control rather than the last over when you need 30+ to win i.e. a guaranteed losing situation. They played themselves out of that chase and Dhoni was the main culprit.
H: Dhoni wasn’t the only one at fault for that loss. Faf du Plessis was equally culpable.
B: Faf was playing the anchor role and once he realized he had to go for it, he did. He swung for the fences much before Dhoni did. I find it hard to blame Faf for that loss, because at least he showed intent to switch gears timely. But Dhoni … his playing style, especially in chases, is not worth emulation.
H: He won matches for India and CSK for more than a decade. You dare question his ability to finish games?
B: I do. Because what made him such a special finisher once upon a time is incidentally the reason for his downfall.
H: Care to elaborate?
To be continued in PART 2 (uploaded separately for review)