In 2012, the former captain of the Indian cricket team told reporters in Jammu and Kashmir that he would “definitely” want to serve in the army but only after he retired from cricket. Dhoni was in Pooch a year after he was inducted as an honorary Lieutenant Colonel to the elite Parachute Regiment.
“I would like to serve actively only after cricket,” Dhoni said. “I don’t want my cricket to suffer because that is something I am good at. Once my cricket career is over, I would definitely like to serve in the army.”
It is unclear what the Army would do with a billionaire wicket-keeper batsman pushing 40, but you never know — perhaps the Army can find some work for a man who was insured for Rs 34 crore in the 2011 edition of the Indian Premier League.
The insurance, the Oriental Insurance Company confirmed to the Times of India, covered “travel risk cover, including medical emergencies, personal accident and loss of baggage.” All very useful for an active career in the army.
Dhoni for his part, has made his position clear. He’s happy to fight for the nation, as long as his cricket doesn’t suffer.
Which of course brings us to the latest, completely unnecessary controversy custom-designed for these chest-beating times — Dhoni’s gloves, bearing the insignia of the Indian Para Special Forces, which he wore during India’s first match against South Africa at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
Should Dhoni #KeepTheGloves?
To be sure, Dhoni has been wearing wicket-keeping gloves with camouflage trimmings for years. Earlier this year, the media credited him with pushing the Indian cricket team to wear military caps in a match against Australia, as an homage to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers killed in a terrorist attack in Pulwama, Kashmir in February. So the flying dagger insignia is pretty much on-brand, appropriately amped up for cricket’s biggest tournament.
Because this is what this is all about: Endorsement-soaked athletes like Dhoni wanting us to like them, and buy the products they endorse. And these days — as TV news figured out some time ago — nothing sells quite like patriotism.
At this point, it is worth remembering that there are, of course, nine other teams at this tournament, with our former colonisers England as organisers and several members of the Commonwealth in attendance. Everyone wearing the insignias of their favourite regiments could rake up some rather unwelcome memories.
At which point, one might justifiably assume, the cricket might just suffer. And, to apply The Dhoni Doctrine of military escalation, everyone should do their bit for the Army, but the cricket must not suffer.
Perhaps we are being unfair to Dhoni here. Perhaps he is offering us a lesson in Zen Buddhist negation that we were are all too obtuse to understand.
Maybe he is simply saying that everyone should just do their work, and leave the fighting to the Army.
Maybe his quip that he would join the army once he retired from cricket was a polite way of saying, “I’ll join the Army — when they won’t want me, so never. Thanks, bye.”
Because, irrespective of how many para-jumps he makes, Dhoni is not a soldier. He is just a sportsman trying to make runs, and sell sneakers, and motorcycles and the countless other things he endorses, including Officer’s Choice Blue — a fine blend of choice malts, and fine grained Indian spirits.
We can all learn from this.
Journalists should stop wearing camouflage, and pretending to be soldiers, and simply focus on holding the government of the day to account — no one is questioning your patriotism chaps, just join the Army at 65 when you are done with journalism. Politicians should stop campaigning with peeps dressed up in military fatigues — do that if you ever retire. As for Dhoni, maybe you could just lose the gloves for now — and join the Army when you retire?