If there is one thing about which there is broad consensus in the country it is that Mahendra Singh Dhoni should be allowed to retire on his own terms. This principle has been robustly stated by none other than the new president of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Sourav Ganguly.
The same opinion has been voiced by various former cricketers with great emphasis. But here is a question that may appear provocative but should be asked – Should a cricketer, howsoever great, be given the right to decide when he wants for India?
Just cast your mind back to the last couple of years of Sachin Tendulkar's career. There was relentless criticism of the Master Blaster for not hanging up his shoes and walking away. Furthermore, there was great anger towards the selectors for not having the courage to take the tough decision on his career.
At that time, it was repeatedly asserted that no player is bigger than the game and the selectors must decide the future of a player purely on the merits of his claim to be in the team.
While in the case of Sachin, this is what was expected from the selectors, in the case of legends like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and, possibly, even VVS Laxman, the selectors did make a bold move.
Ganguly was asked, behind the scenes, to announce his retirement after India vs Australia series in 2008 while Dravid was dropped from the ODI team twice – first for the 2008 tri-series in Australia and then after the Champions Trophy in 2009. VVS Laxman, too, is likely to have got a nudge that prompted his sudden retirement in 2012.
So, why is Dhoni being given preferential treatment? Yes, he is a great captain but so was Ganguly. Yes, Dhoni is a legendary batsman but so were Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman.
Therefore, it is hypocritical for the BCCI to give Dhoni a carte blanche on his retirement and for the fans to believe that the star should be allowed to retire whenever he wants. When Sachin decided to not take part in the 2012 5-match ODI series in Sri Lanka, he was strongly criticised for picking and choosing when he plays. But Dhoni's continuous absence is considered his rightful prerogative.
No player is greater than the game. This axiom was used to target Sachin regularly when he was in the last phase of his career. Why is MSD being accorded a status higher than Tendulkar? This is a question that needs to be asked.