The famed 'coolness' of Mahendra Singh Dhoni evaded him once again during Chennai Super Kings' IPL match against Rajasthan Royals on April 11. His unprecedented act of entering the field and remonstrating with the umpires is the latest among a series of uncharacteristic outbursts from the former India captain.
The first major incident of Dhoni losing his cool occurred during a T20I match in South Africa in 2018 when he lashed out at non-striker Manish Pandey for not paying attention to his call. Then, he gave Indian pacer Khaleel Ahmed an earful in the second ODI during the Australia tour when he walked on the pitch. In IPL 2019, before his spat with the umpires, he had lashed out at Deepak Chahar during his team's match against Kings XI Punjab.
So, what's happening? While it is nearly impossible to peek into the mind of MSD, it seems this change of attitude started as early as 2012. The Indian team had received thrashings in England and Australia in 2011-12. Two whitewashes were followed by failure to reach the Asia Cup final and semis of World T20. Dhoni sought revenge and redemption in a home series against England but suffered another embarrassing loss.
Suddenly, the unflinching calmness of the World Cup-winning captain was no longer celebrated but seen as a manifestation of him lacking concern for his team. Former captains and experts demanded that he be removed as the skipper. After India won a dead rubber against Pakistan at Delhi, Dhoni's celebration was more animated than ever before – he plucked out the stump and jumped up and down with joy.
However, overseas results continued to be poor. Eventually, Dhoni quit Test cricket altogether following the third Test against Australia at Melbourne in December 2014. After India lost the 2015 World Cup semi-final and the ODI series in Bangladesh, MSD made a comment which was tinged with irritation at his position being questioned. "It is justifiable if you remove me and Indian cricket starts doing well. If I am the reason for all the bad that's happening to Indian cricket, definitely, I would love to step away and play just as a player."
Concerns About Batting Form
Dhoni did step down as the captain in 2017 but remained a key player in the team. However, his form saw a decline and the vaunted ability he once possessed to win a match from any situation was becoming less visible. Many suggested that his days as a top player are over. He responded by performing well in the ODI series against Australia and New Zealand in early 2019. But whether he can return to being the Mahi of old who can rescue his team from the most hopeless of situations or bludgeon bowling attacks at the death overs remains to be seen.
Maybe, just maybe, the growing pressure and persistent focus on his form and batting are starting to take a toll. A person who has been playing international cricket for more than 14 years and is being scrutinised more than ever before is bound to lose his cool sometimes, even if he is captain 'cool.'