Mahendra Singh Dhoni esq

Dear MS,

Greetings from Cape Town, trust you are well and looking forward to a very busy schedule coming up, as always. I must say that, from an outsiders’ point of view, seven one-dayers against Australia seems a bit excessive. Surely you’ve got a pretty decent idea of which is the better team after five? Or even three!

And then you’re playing Sri Lanka – again! Haven’t you just played them? Twice? I can only imagine what deals and agreements have been made between the bureaucrats of the BCCI and Cricket Sri Lanka for all these series to keep taking place. Maybe it’s just that Sri Lankan cricket is desperate for the money and your bosses are showing a sympathetic, philanthropic streak normally disguised by the ruthless, financially driven one.

After that I believe you’re going to Bangladesh for a triangular series of one-dayers. Crikey, I know there’s the pride of playing for your country and all that, but honestly – that’s going to be pretty difficult to get excited about, isn’t it? It’s more a question of India keeping its Asian neighbours financially afloat for a couple of months than anything else, isn’t it? Still, maybe the idea is for you and some of the other senior guys to take a breather and get some of the younger boys involved. Then, of course, the Proteas arrive for another seven-match series (too many, once again!).

Anyway, that’s not the reason I’m writing and I know I should probably have written a couple of weeks ago but I wasn’t sure what to say or how to phrase it. It’s about the ICC Awards dinner which, as you know, was held in Jo’burg before the semi finals of the Champions Trophy.

You probably don’t know this, let alone care, but I was one of 25 judges this year despite having been a fairly robust critic of the ICC over the years. My ‘reward’ was to be invited to the awards banquet. I realise you’ve been to hundreds of banquets and I’ve been told that ‘functions’ and ‘formality’ really aren’t your thing. You’re not alone – many sportsmen feel the same way. In fact, I can’t think of any cricketer I’ve met in the last 20 years who became excited at the prospect of a formal function.

Besides, with the playing schedule you’ve got I’m not surprised you’d rather get as much ‘down time’ as possible.

I must admit that I, too, considered declining the invitation to be a judge. There was an awful lot of evidence to consider and I could see how much time it would take, time which I didn’t really have. But then I remembered what my maternal grandmother always used to say when I was being a lazy boy: “Imagine what would happen to the world if everybody said they ‘couldn’t be bothered’,” she used to chide.

The point is, MS, you were staying in the same hotel as the banquet! Nobody would have spoken – or even thought – a negative word if you’d popped in for 15 minutes to collect your award and then gone back to your room and MTV. And to be honest, you didn’t miss too much with the roast artichoke starter and chicken breast main course. Any way, you probably thought nobody would miss you.

But they did. You were the only award winner missing. And Ravi Shastri didn’t even bother making up a feeble excuse for you. He just said: “Unfortunately MS isn’t here tonight” which, of course, made people like me ask ‘why not?’ The irony, of course, is that you were there. You were just upstairs.

In my humble and largely very irrelevant opinion, MS, as captain of India and an iconic figure to millions of people around the world, I reckon you might benefit from a reappraisal of your attitude to functions. They might be a pain in the arse but they serve a purpose – sometimes even a valuable purpose.

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