June 1, 2013

The art of meticulous blandness

Andrew Hughes
MS Dhoni while talking to the press ahead of the Champions Trophy, Birmingham, May 30, 2013
"'Under the wraps', 'sponging off', 'rubbing people the wrong way'... I have a whole host of towel jokes, and I didn't even use 'throw in the towel', but they won't let me make any!"  © ICC/Jan Kruger
Enlarge

RELATED LINKS

Captain of India is not a job I'd choose to do myself. Granted, it's unlikely I'll be asked. But if I did get a phone call from Mr Srinivasan, asking whether, with my experience of English tea-making conditions and ability to handle an umbrella, I would consider helping them out in the Champions Trophy, I would have to decline.

For one thing, I don't like to think too much. I lose interest in crosswords after the third clue. I still haven't finished reading The Great Gatsby. I am forever wandering into rooms and forgetting what I came in for. Now I could get away with this if I was just being asked to stand in as a player, since all you have to remember is which team you're playing for, which dressing room to go into, and whether or not you are allowed to accept money from bookies.

But cricket captaincy is all about thinking. It's not the same in other sports. Football captains don't have this problem. As Michael Vaughan recently suggested, there isn't a lot to it. A football captain's job appears to involve shouting, clapping your hands together vigorously, standing at one end of the line before the game, and being head cliché-dispenser at the press conference. Thinking doesn't come into it.

Not so for the poor cricket captain. He is regularly required to exert little grey cells. How many overs do these jokers need to bowl in the next ten minutes so I don't cop another fine? Did I promise Ishant he could have the last over? Have we used the Powerplay yet? Wait, do we still have Powerplays? Did I tell Suresh to start outside the circle and walk in, or the other way round? Is this umpire the one who hates us or the one who never hears nicks?

If being a cricket captain is a bit of a headache, then being the Indian cricket captain must feel like you've got half a dozen angry squirrels nesting in your cranial cavity, banging on the inside of your skull with acorns and asking why Rahane isn't playing, why you didn't win the last game that you didn't win, and when are you going to retire, you old has-been.

The questions never end and the scrutiny is relentless. It is remarkable that the current incumbent hasn't yet snapped and gone on a Hulk-style rampage, ripping off his shirt, overturning tables full of microphones, and throwing journalists through the window roaring, "Mahendra angry! Mahendra not want answer stupid questions!"

Within hours of landing in England this week, MS Dhoni was once again sitting in front of a microphone. It was the first time that the English press had been able to get at a senior Indian cricket personage en masse since that unfortunate business at the IPL first came to light, so this time he wasn't just representing his team, but the whole of Indian cricket. He was asked many questions, but the gist of it seemed to be:

1. Isn't the IPL ruining the chances of the national team?

2. Seven days is hardly enough time to prepare for an international tournament now, is it?

3. What about all this spot-fixing, corruption and so on, eh?

Now if I was in his shoes, I might have been tempted to reply as follows:

1. Yes, it's a complete joke. I am so sick of the Indian dumb stupid Premier League. I can't wait for the day when it all folds. It really is awful, and I hate every minute of it.

2. You're telling me! I haven't even had chance to buy an umbrella. But that's the BCCI for you. Complete idiots, the lot of them. And that Srinivasan, don't get me started!

3. Spot-fixing? You don't know the half of it. I could tell you some stories, believe me. There was this one time…

What I wouldn't have been able to do is to answer all of those questions with meticulous blandness, taking care to avoid any intonation, syllabic emphasis, or tiny frownlet that could cause even a single word to be misconstrued. At the moment, MS is the best spokesman/PR person the BCCI have. And it isn't even his day job.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Andrew Hughes

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by mariojo82 on (June 2, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

at the moment hes the most qualified person for the captaincy of the Indian team .. and he has done a remarkable job so far.

Posted by   on (June 2, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

Vice President, India Cements.......the conflict of interests starts there......much as we love him.......this is one thing that even Mahi can not hit for a six!!!

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (June 2, 2013, 6:52 GMT)

I loved the part where dhoni does a hulk "Mahendra angry! Mahendra not want answer stupid questions!" .. nice touch :) but on a more serious note i think dhoni is doing the right thing ,its not his job to pronounce judgement on people before investigation is completed. like always he has remained calm and took it in the right way. very good to see a guy who doesn't give in to sensationalism of media

Posted by   on (June 2, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

That is why Dhoni has been such a successful captain, he takes the storm as easily as a victory.

Posted by Snambidi on (June 1, 2013, 19:02 GMT)

It is time for all real cricket fans to leave behind IPL& such kind of Cricket.Let us concentrate on the real version of Cricket the CHAMPION TROPHY in England starting from 6th of June 2013

I write this comment here because there had been an interesting Warming -up match between the World Cup finalists Srilanka& India today. SL after batting first scored a very big score of 333/3 .India needing 334 to win from 50 overs.

The opener Shikhar Dhavan lost his wicket at 1 run in the beginning of Indian inninggs giving a hope for SL to have something like a noble revenge on India for the unexpected World Cup defeat.

But at the end it was again India at the winning end.Virat Kohli& Dinesh Karthik showed enhanced spirit to win & it paid the dividend. An indication of how things are going to materialize in the next few days from 6th of June. Incidentally it also happened to be a Birthday Gift for Dinesh Karthik. All the best Team India in the Champion Trophy

SN.

Posted by   on (June 1, 2013, 18:52 GMT)

MSD, Indian cricket is very fortunate to have you!

Posted by arish.rajan on (June 1, 2013, 18:47 GMT)

this is really a nice one Andrew .... sometimes it all comes together for an article ... the wit .. the brevity ... the need/relevance ... this is the kind of article which cheers me up... for saying the right thing .. and also being witty ... yup and i agree with you ... this man is under tremendous strain .... and he is a remarkably strong man to have stood up to it for so many years ... and i say this in-spite of not being his ardent supporter ... but i do have a lot of respect for him ..

Posted by febx10i on (June 1, 2013, 10:19 GMT)

May be this is the reason I am always impressed by this man, I don't think anyone else can avoid all these things from his head and focus where he has to with this calmness. I admire this strength

Posted by since7 on (June 1, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

Forget hulk.At the moment Curtly Ambrose's memorable words suit dhoni more. "Mahendra talk to no reporters".:)

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

All articles by this writer