Dear Mr Dhoni – or may I call you Mahendra? Perhaps even MS? We’ve never ‘properly’ met, not as ‘normal’ people anyway – there’s always been a table or a microphone between us. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me writing. I haven’t got your email address so I’ll just have to hope someone passes this on.
I’ve always wondered why so few Indian cricketers have spoken out publicly in favour or support of issues which affect them, their colleagues or even the future and well-being of the game itself. I’m pretty good with the history of the game so I know there have been a few instances over the last five or six decades, but generally speaking, Indian players have done what they’re told to do.
It used to be that way on the field, too, didn’t it? Remember the way the national players before your generation used to meekly take the bullying and sledging from the Aussies, English and South Africans? Apparently they thought it was undignified to react, and Indians are rightly proud of their dignified heritage.
But you kept getting beaten. It was all very well having good manners, but it wasn’t much fun losing all the time. So things changed. Although there were players before him who refused to be bullied, Saurav was the first captain to encourage his players to stand up for themselves – even give a little back. Remember that time he kept Steve Waugh waiting in the middle for the toss? That was hilarious. Waugh was furious!
Anyway, I was just wondering whether you had considered taking the next natural step? You’ve been standing up for yourselves on the field for a decade or so now and look where it’s got you. A World Cup winner’s medal, A T20 World Championship, a Champions Trophy and, at various times, the No 1 ranking in all three formats of the game. You can’t argue with that! Congratulations! You and all your players have every reason to feel extremely proud.
The ‘next step’, as I see it, is to stand up for yourselves off the field. I know the BCCI won’t allow the players to form a Players Association – hell, maybe you don’t even want one? There is quite a bit of admin required, and I know you’re busy (although I’m sure there’d be a few office-type guys more than willing to do the paperwork).
Sachin never spoke out on anything, but that’s because he was even busier than you. Even when he was absurdly accused of ball tampering by the preposterous match referee, Mike Denness, here in SA 12 years ago, he refused to defend himself. The third test was cancelled. Many of us still think it’s odd that he never spoke out or tried to defuse the situation.
Anyway, this tour has got me thinking. Every single member of the Proteas test squad wants to play three tests. They are the champions, and you are the rightful challengers to their crown as the number-two ranked team. I assume you would like to play a proper series, too? I see your selectors have picked a squad of 17 players – including five fast bowlers – for two tests? Not leaving anything to chance, are they? That should be enough for five tests, never mind three.
Anyway, I was wondering what you felt about, maybe, suggesting that we do have the New Year’s test at Newlands, after all. My friends say there’s no way you would say anything which might upset your owner – I mean, the owner of your IPL franchise, N. Srinivasan – but I thought the opposite. Seeing as you know him so well, he might take it from you.
India would still have two weeks before the scheduled start of your tour of New Zealand so that wouldn’t be a problem. And don’t worry about the logistics, we’re pretty good at that stuff in SA. We hosted a whole IPL at 15 minutes’ notice, remember? Newlands would love to have you. At the moment there’s a ‘Festival of Cricket’ being organised but, in all honesty MS – can I call you MS? – we’d much, much rather have you for a test match.
I reckon if you just said the word, it could happen. Just say: “We’d like to play three test matches” – and see how the ball will start rolling.
Unless you don’t want to play a proper series?
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.