The IPL Favours No One

The re­moval of Dhoni from the cap­taincy of Ris­ing Pune Su­per­giants is le­git

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar More com­ments on eco­nomic­times.com

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

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