The ‘compartment’ syndrome is something I have written about a couple of times already. You know how some people have to hate Mammootty if they love Mohanlal or how they have to hate Ronaldo if they love Messi – things like that. Indian cricket scene is one where these compartments are so common and so senseless too. Ever since the new generation of cricketers started performing wonderfully, there have been an outpour of ‘viral’ posts showing Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag etc. and stating that they were the true legends who deserve respect and not the current players. Every time Kohli adds another century to his milestones or breaks another record, I see posts downplaying his talent, posts about how he is breaking records only because he doesn’t have to face legendary bowlers of yesteryears like McGrath. Every time Dhoni led the team to a victory or a prestigious title, there would be posts about how Ganguly was a better captain and how Dhoni was nothing. While lauding Yuvraj Singh for his passion towards the game, people make it a point to state that today’s players do not even compare to him in their dedication. (Personally, I find it wrong to see some fans using his battle with cancer to support their claims, and especially so when they make it sound like other players lack dedication because they didn’t fight a fatal disease and still play cricket. Quite unfair!)
I have often wondered, why can’t we love the legends of our childhood without belittling the current players? Why can’t we give them credit where it is due and criticize them maturely when things go wrong? Dhoni, for that matter, is a player who has taken the brunt of fan-love for another player the most – be it Ganguly or Yuvraj or Sehwag. What I can’t understand is, no matter what your reasons for hating him, as an Indian cricket fan, how can you disregard some of the most glorious achievements he has led us to? Why do you want to make it all sound like nothing only because you hate him and would love to portray him as a loser? Even in the current World Cup tournament, people celebrate his off-form as if it is a personal victory for them and make atrocious statements like he made the team lose intentionally or strategized to gain people’s sympathy or a hero status (God knows how!). They keep talking about how retaining him in the team for the World Cup was a bad decision. But if we really did have a decent replacement for him, we wouldn’t have worried for so long about what happens after he retires. (Please don’t say Pant, only for an argument. He has miles to go before learning how to stay calm and grounded when he bats. He will surely improve and he has tried to do that after joining the squad too. But the World Cup is not the place where you experiment without any reason in a position where you don’t have to.)
It really felt bad seeing Dhoni out of form in most games of the tournament that matters the most. And I do understand that he will be criticized – as a player, he has to be. But I wish people could learn to do that with a little less spite and a little more dignity. Derogatory comments that mean “The oldie can’t even lift a bat and he thinks he can be a finisher” (that sounded much worse in a regional language) about a man who has time and again taken Indian cricket to newer heights is just uncalled for. The same people who once bayed for Sachin’s blood towards the end of his career and made him sound like a “worthless oldie” now call Sachin a legend and take turns at degrading current players as if they have some kind of personal enmity with them. The level of hatred in their words cannot be explained otherwise.
Dhoni has done an amazing job of not being too excited about good days and not worrying unnecessarily about all the hateful trolls. For all it’s worth, I truly feel that he should retire now – not really because of his on and off streaks of form, but more because, for what he has done for Indian cricket, Indian fans never really deserved him. And whatever be their form towards the end of their career, I worry that all of them will have to face such spiteful comments from fans who believe it is their birthright to belittle the achievements of these players who are all legends in their own terms. If this is how sports fans should really be, then I am happy to be an occasional visitor to sports.