The IPL Favours No One
The removal of Dhoni from the captaincy of Rising Pune Supergiants is legit
There has been a lot of talk in the last few days on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s removal as captain of the IPL franchise, the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS). Is owner Sanjiv Goenka justified in removing Dhoni, arguably India’s best white-ball captain of all time? Also, could the removal have been handled better?
Is the choice of Australian Steve Smith rational, considering Dhoni’s are big shoes to fill? Finally, can Smith be compared to Dhoni in any way, and is such a comparison justified?
This is not about making a value judgement. Whether the decision is good or bad can only be known at the end of the10th season of the IPL. Dhoni, for the record, led Pune to 7th position in the 9th season. How Smith fares will be known only when RPS plays its scheduled 14 games under the new skipper.
However, one thing is for certain. In franchise cricket, there are no holy cows. Never was and never will be. Consider the case of Sourav Ganguly. Arguably the most popular Bengali cricketer of all time, it was considered inconceivable that Ganguly would not be a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
When Shah Rukh Khan’s franchise parted ways with him, there was a huge backlash in Kolkata. Some predicted that KKR was about to lose its fan base and KKR matches would be played to near-empty stands at the Eden Gardens. Others went on to suggest that Gautam Gambhir will find it impossible to fill Ganguly’s shoes.
Yes, it started badly for KKR. A couple of games did see poor attendance. However, soon after the team started doing well, the fans started to fill the stands. And once Gambhir led them to the title in 2012 and again in 2014, the bitter KKR-Ganguly saga was all but forgotten. Nothing succeeds like success and the franchise has since moved a long way on.
This is what the IPL is all about. A commercially driven, ruthlessly competitive business proposition with its dedicated base of followers globally, it has little place for emotions.
There can never be any debate on Dhoni’s place in India’s cricket pantheon. A true legend of the game, he will forever be perched on the pedestal. But for Goenka, who has won the franchise for a period of only two years, it is now or never.
Beckham Too Bowled Out
Dhoni’s past success can give him little satisfaction as under the Pune banner, Dhoni had the poorest of his IPL seasons. Goenka needs instant success and he feels Smith is better suited to ensure that.
There have been many similar instances in global sport. Take the case of David Beckham in football. Many considered him a Manchester United homeboy till his bitter fallout with manager Alex Ferguson. The breakup with Ferguson resulted in Beckham leaving the club and Premier League Football for Real Madrid.
United, for the record, was no poorer. Nor did Rutherford lose any gloss over a period of time. Beckham, too, moved on after a while.
There is little doubt that Dhoni will see matters beyond the removal. He Ram Kumar
The decision to sack Dhoni as RPS captain is justified, the manner in which it was done is not. Dhoni looks complacent, not to forget the CSK baggage he is carrying. Dhoni needs to dust CSK off him, no matter how close it is to his heart.
Goutam is first a player and then a captain. He will want to contribute his best as a professional. That’s sport for you and the IPL is no different.
In fact, the IPL has seen a few similar instances. Virender Sehwag moving out of Delhi Daredevils, and Rahul Dravid moving to Rajasthan Royals come to mind. While RPS Dhoni fans may feel upset, a few wins under Smith and the issue will soon be water under the bridge.
Does the decision affect Dhoni in any way? The only realm where the decision is likely to hurt him is in terms of his brand value. With Virat Kohli already securing top spot, losing captaincy is sure to hurt Dhoni’s marketability in corporate India. Having ruled the roost for years, his management team may now find it slightly hardertoaskforpremiumrupeefrom the brands Dhoni continues to endorse. More because Dhoni doesn’t play Test cricket any more.
With bilateral ODIs and T20s of little significance, Dhoni, the brand, has limited visibility. It is only during major ICC tournaments and the IPL is he visible to his fans day in, day out. And losing captaincy means his visibility will now be considerably reduced during the IPL as well.
Have a Break? Have MSD
Two final things need to be mentioned. One, it will be interesting to see who captains RPS if Steve Smith takes a break for a game. Will Goenka go back to Dhoni or will he go to Ravichandran Ashwin?
Two, will Dhoni do what he is doing for the Kohli-led national side — advise Smith from behind the stumps and play the role of de-facto RPS vice-captain?
We have not seen the last of this RPS-Dhoni innings.
Finders keepers, losers no more captain-wicketkeepers