India's Yuzvendra Chahal
India's Yuzvendra Chahal, right, celebrates with teammate MS Dhoni the dismissal of South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo during the World Cup match between them at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, on June 5, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Cricket is purely a mind game. Although it is has also become physical now, there is still a lot of emphasis on the mental aspect of the game.

In his book ‘The Barefoot Coach’, Paddy Upton, the former mental conditioning coach of the Indian team and current Rajasthan Royals coach, has dealt with the mental toughness of cricketers.

His opinion about Mahendra Singh Dhoni, written in the book, is: “I would go as far as to say, with greatest respect for MS the man and the cricketer, that it is not emotional control but the lack of access to emotions. MS is not wired as an emotional type. It’s almost as if he doesn’t have them; a performance enhancing gift from birth.”

So, if Dhoni is not an emotional, why did he sport the ‘Balidan Badge’ or Army logo on his gloves against South Africa in Southampton on June 5? Although he wears his love for the Indian Army on his sleeve, or in this case on his gloves, it may have to do with the mental aspect again.

Sportsmen in general go through certain rituals and routines before matches, sometimes bordering on superstition, to feel confident as they take on their rivals. It is to boost them mentally. For some looking skywards gives them the belief and faith that they can overcome the challenge that’s in front of them.

There have been instances of players writing something on their bat or adding an extra sticker to adopt a change in their approach. If they succeed after that, they start believing that this is the lucky talisman that changed the fortunes. Sometimes player even sport a beard, or a moustache to get their fortunes right.

So in Dhoni’s case by looking at the Army badge, he might feel that he will get the psychological boost that will help him to focus more on the task at hand, quite literally.

But Dhoni’s great strength lies in his mental attitude. Despite the inadequacies in his technique, he has scaled many a peaks with the attitude and approach to be one of the best in the business.

So should he need a talisman, or is he playing mental games, with the match against Pakistan fast approaching on June 16?

Immediately after the glove controversy broke, Fawad Chaudhary, Federal Minister of Science and Technology government of Pakistan, tweeted: “Dhoni is in England to play cricket and not for MahaBharata, what an idiotic debate in India media, a section of Indian media is obsessed with the war they should be sent to Syria, Afghanistan or Rwanda as mercenaries….#idiots.”

Even when the Pakistan players wanted to retaliate on the field for the army caps worn by Indian team post the Pulwama attack, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, the World Cup-winning captain who knows the importance of players focusing on their game, rightly advised them to “stick to cricket”.

Cricket and specifically the World Cup has witnessed many controversies in the past, but one of the most prominent among them, which happened during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, is the black armband protest by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga to mourn the death of democracy under Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe.

Cricket has rode the storm with all the controversies and is still going strong, one can hope this is just another of those blips that takes the focus off the action.

With Dhoni removing the logo, the focus is firmly back on cricket as we wait for the umpires to call play when India next meet New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Thursday.