I should admit, right at the outset, that I don’t know anything about cricket and I certainly don’t know MSD personally. However, I’ve always been impressed by him, for reasons that only another teacher/educationist would understand.
I say this because teachers, or anyone who has worked with the young, are trained to pick up signals and cues from body language and facial expressions that other people may miss. This training is more-or-less foolproof because it is acquired on the job; it can’t be learnt from books or under anyone’s instruction. It is also compulsory, as otherwise the subtle would be mistaken for the gross.
So watching M.S. Dhoni walk up to receive one of his innumerable awards, or look around the field when a teammate has done something, whether silly or spectacular, was a revelation. One could see that whatever was going on under that calm brow — and something must have — he wasn’t about to reveal it. This is a quality of a sophisticated and refined mind. It is said that Swami Vivekananda was told by his very urbane and educated lawyer-father, Sri Biswanath Datta, that he must never show surprise, for gentlemen never reveal this particular emotion. (Read more about M.S. Dhoni here)
The next thing that puts him in the category of superiors — and this is related to the first reason — is that he made short work of the inane questions he was asked, or remarks that were made when India either won or lost (for example, ‘You must be very happy that…’ or ‘What do you feel about this performance…’), because the answers are self-evident. He always replied with extreme politeness, but one could see he wasn’t going to encourage it.
To contain silliness in a refined way is not a gift that many people possess.
The third reason — and I hope I don’t sound patronising here — is the mastery he gained over the English language over the years. In many ways English has remained the language of the game, and that is what the language remained to him. I didn’t get the impression he was particularly glad that he could hold his own; rather, I thought he felt ‘these guys only understand this, so I better speak it well in order to avoid being misunderstood or misquoted’.
All in all, he was a role model even to those in the minuscule minority in this country who are ignorant of cricket, such as myself, and by role model, I mean that I would certainly hold him up in my class as one who could be emulated.
Prema Raghunath’s forthcoming collection of stories, Dasavatara, will soon be available on Juggernaut. Read the story behind India’s greatest Tests here.