Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai
I had a chat with one of my mother's friends yesterday. She asked me about my cricket column, and I cribbed a bit, telling her what hard work it was to come up with a new idea to write about every single day. Especially difficult, I said, because I'm not in the place where all the action is, so I can't speak to any of the players or fans or anything. "Oh, don't be silly," she said. "Why don't you just write about Dhoni? He's so sexy."
The fact that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's sex appeal ranges across the vast board of the female population of this country doesn't surprise me at all. He's young, handsome, cavalier, and setting aside his exploits on the cricket pitch for just a moment, he's got that certain something; call it aura, essence, the "it" factor. Whatever it is, he's got it. What does surprise me, though, is the quality of the sex appeal. It's an innocent boy-next-door crush mixed with a bit of Desperate Housewives crazy. On the one hand he has this rock-star "bad-boy" image with his love of motorbikes and long hair (now shorn, but still). On the other, there's his fondness for milk and dogs. Now I've never met the man, so I may be totally off mark, but he clearly has the right combination of being slightly edgy but very wholesome, and this, as you know, is what all women secretly desire.
There have been plenty of cricketers with sex appeal in the past; think Imran Khan, the original poster boy; think Sir Vivian Richards. But their appeal was raw, undiluted, unapologetic. With Dhoni it's different. Perhaps it has something to do with his humble beginnings in Ranchi, or perhaps it's just in his nature to be level-headed and cool, but the vibe he gives off (despite his million-and-one endorsements, which would normally put me off anyone) is essentially that of a self-made man - straight-hitting, straight-talking, no nonsense, and above all, no arrogance.
I guess in the game of cricket, like in life, there are a range of personalities that come into play. There are the Shane Warne showmen, the beauteous-to-behold Brian Laras, the unflappable Steve Waughs, and the silver-tongued Rahul Dravids. And then there are those mysterious ones, difficult to peg down. Dhoni is one of them. In fact, the only sportsperson I can compare him to in our time is the tennis player Rafael Nadal, (whom I have met, and is very close in real life to his media personality). Again, a small-town boy who remains very close to his family, who hasn't let success go to his head, who is adored by teenagers and grannies equally, who has that good-sexy image as opposed to a bad-sexy image, who can walk into any room and electrify it. The only difference between them is that Dhoni isn't a leftie.