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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dhoni versus icons in IPL

The spoken word, Mahendra Singh Dhoni should have known, is like a poisoned arrow: once out of the bow, it can only hurt, cripple or kill. The other day, in a moment of heady weakness, he declared that one needs to send a strong message across at times. He was referring to his own moment of truth when he had to choose: between the tried and tested within the team and his young mates who had helped him win the Twenty20 World Cup.

It wasn't an easy choice, no doubt. The seniors in the squad had taken on the Australians gallantly; they were fired up and more than desperate for another shot at those scurrying 'roos. The so-called One-day specialists, on the other hand, weren't exactly on fire.

Dhoni eventually opted for the verve of youth and energy of fresh legs. The country responded indignantly; the experts felt it was a brave move, bordering on the suicidal. The selectors quickly washed off their hands, saying it was the captain's decision.

Dhoni received the bricks and the bats as they were mauled in the initial part of the Tri-series. But then, the tide turned. Pushed to the tipping point by the ill-mannered Aussies, the Indians found their feet slowly.

One or the other played pivotal knocks to resuscitate the team and slowly take it into the finals. Sachin Tendulkar, the last remnant from the old age, took over. India won the Tri-series for the first time ever; it was a victory for the cool-as-ice Dhoni too. Indeed, it was a proud moment for him, beating Australia in Australia.

But what prompted him to say what he eventually did? Was it just a festering wound that burst forth unexpectedly? Or was it a calculated outburst to actually send a message across (to the seniors)? Either ways, when he gets together with them again to prepare for the South Africa Test series, he may find himself on a bouncy track.

Even if the 'wise old men' ignore those barbs and welcome him with open arms, it will only be an uneasy calm. The storm will rage when the IPL gets under way, a couple of weeks after that. Because that is when the juniors will find themselves pitted against the seniors, along with the world's best all-weather players, for the first time.

That will be the time when the debate over old and young will finally be resolved. To understand the real value of a player, however, one just needs to look at the IPL. It is not for nothing that Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dravid had been nominated icons by the BCCI. The Ishants and Uthappas might have gone for a ransom but the Gilchrists and Jayasuriyas were not too behind either.

Many might argue that the older ones are slower on the field and between the wickets too. True. But let us not forget that if one player can win a cricket match single-handedly, it is in this format. They would surely like to demonstrate it when the entire world is watching.

The seniors will be eager to have a go at Twenty20 for another reason: it was this very game that saw them first being harangued and ostracised; it was this very concept that split the team into two halves. They would surely want to show Dhoni and his dazzlers a thing or two about instant cricket and non-stop hitting.

Dhoni's Chennai is easily one of the stronger outfits in the IPL; he begins with a massive advantage on that count. Despite that if his team triumphs, all debates and arguments will come to a grinding halt. Otherwise, the same words, the same poisonous arrows, will come back to haunt him.

Pataudi, Gavaskar, Shastri to pick IPL Player of the League

NEW DELHI: Former captains Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri will be part of a panel to select the 'Player of the League' in the forthcoming DLF Indian Premier League.

The player winning the award will be presented a trophy and a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh by title sponsors DLF Limited.

"In Pataudi, Gavaskar and Shastri, we have a truly world class panel of adjudicators, as these are cricketers that have been successful cricketing icons on the world stage," Chairman and Commissioner of IPL Lalit Modi said.

The IPL will start on April 18 with Shah Rukh Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders taking on business tycoon Vijay Mallya's Bangalore Royal Challengers at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

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