Just Emkaying: When I met Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Dec 30, 2014

When I met Mahendra Singh Dhoni

One of the advantages of being a minion in a Daaru company (or Alco-Beverage as the HR guys pitch) is that alcohol is very easy to come by. In the sense that while you work at the multiple events they have, you stand & watch as the alcohol comes and goes by, while you wonder if the lights are working properly, if the promoters are selling instead of drinking, and if you'll ever get to suavely slide a drink down to the chicks at the party while no one is looking.

Or rather when everyone is looking and there are spotlights on you.

The other advantage is that you get to meet with Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

In the sweltering heat of Chennai, in May 2011 we were organizing a small event for the distributors of our products. The big draw was that MSD was to come down to say Hi and would be part of the celebrations and pose for photographs. The event was to be held at the Sheraton ITC and the idea was to keep it a classy event, and limited to around 150 people.

Mahi arrived in time and was waiting in his room before coming down to the hall. The hall was full of well dressed, sharp looking people, many with their family members. The excitement was in the air, because this was Mahi's first appearance after the finishing 6 on 2nd April, 2011 which brought back the Cricket World cup in fine fashion. 

The lights went off, the host announced his arrival on stage, and a split second later Mahi was revealed. Dressed in a black t shirt and washed down jeans, sporting a black watch and his newly acquired post world cup crew cut stood a guy who had made a dream of billions true. 

I have never seen anyone, Live or on TV, receive so much thunderous applause or adulation, so much cheering, in my entire life. I don't think I ever will.  It must have lasted for at least 15 minutes, people chanting "Dhoni Dhoni Dhoni". I was spell bound to watch these adults, grown up men and women who were unable to control themselves. Finally, it was Dhoni who had to come to our rescue and request the audience to calm down before he spoke a few words. 

And yes, he did say a few in Tamil which made the crowd go berserk for another 10 minutes.

At this point I must let you know that I considered the people of Tamil Nadu are mild mannered, reserved and calm. I was gravely mistaken. All those Rajni movies where he flicks of a 100 hooligans with one pelvic thrust has not evolved from the imaginarium of random directors or Fanboi's. They have all been based on the raw emotion that is the average "Mani" of Chennai, who is capable of loving you so much, that he might even kill you. Trust me, don't let the White, cloud like fluffy looking idli's fool you, they're probably loaded with cocaine. (Joke da)

(I think I might be addicted to those idlis too)

Why, you ask? Well after 2 security breakdowns and having 10 -12 guards who liked Andre the Giant on Steroids, it took unbelievable amount of grab-by-the-collar-shoving to keep these 150 people off of Dhoni during the photo sessions. It was getting so chaotic that Dhoni's manager and we also got involved in keeping the people off the stage, and as a result some of us appear in multiple photos, all looking mighty pissed and sweaty. (ha!)

It was an unbelievable scene. People had brought bouquets and gifts, garlands and so many other things. But the best of all was when people started shoving cash & gold into his hands, and one smart ass actually put money and his visiting card down Mahi's T shirt!!!

I wonder what he was thinking. No seriously dude, What the hell where you thinking?

But here's what I really wanted to say. Through all that chaos that over shot the schedule by 1 hour, through all the pushing and pulling, through all that yelling and people trying to shake his hand, hug him, make him carry their children and all other means of showing love, Mahi smiled through it all. He didn't flinch. He carried himself with so much grace and calm that I felt that if there was anyone who deserved to bring that World Cup home, if there was anyone who had to be the flag bearer for Indian cricket as it was at that point then, it was this man.

Source: GETTY images

I am not a cricket fan. I love my T20's and nail biting ODI finishes. I don't care for tests and statistics, and I didn't care to watch Tendulkar hang up his boots at Mumbai. I'm perhaps the lowest scourge in the social rung of cricket watchers, perhaps even worse.

But today, while I watched the whole world heap judgement, and accusations against his decision to retire, abruptly in between a series where we were already loosing, the image of Mahi on that day in Chennai comes to mind.

He didn't like tests. He's said it before, he's said it now. It makes perfect sense to me that he would choose to retire from a format that he didn't like. It makes sense to me that he wants to continue playing in the other formats of the game, a format in which he led us to be the WC champions. If anyone had a problem with that, it should have been the BCCI. 

If you, dear Times Now and allied loud speaker organisations, have questions to ask, please pull in the BCCI and ask them why they were sitting on their royal Arses? Why don't you also ask Srinivasan and co, why he has let the Indian captain take a decision that affects Indian cricket? It's the BCCI that has accepted his resignation, fully aware of the implications. So why are you not holding them accountable and instead choose to focus your alpenliebe panel on Dhoni?

Did he play great test cricket - I don't know
Did he retire gracefully? - No
Did he put the rest of the series at stake? - Yes
Could have this been done a 100 times in a more sensible fashion? - Definitely, yes. 

"But for all that you have done for Indian cricket Mahi, I'm happy to concede that you had your reasons to make this abrupt decision and we will not go into a tangent on how you've broken protocol and other such hogwash." 

That's what I wanted to hear from the world today.

Source: GETTY images


PS: I had the pleasure of meeting Mahi the second time in November of the same year. I didn't get to speak to him, minion as I was. But even then, I feel privileged to have stood next to him for a picture :)

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