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Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves with the military insignia logo has caught the attention of the world with mixed reactions coming in from the experts. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Dhoni’s gloves. What was all that sound and fury? I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

To me, this was the story: Indian wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sported an army crest on his gloves in the World Cup opener against South Africa at Southampton. The International Cricket Council took issue and asked the insignia be removed, citing breach of rules. The emblem was missing from Dhoni’s gloves at the Oval against Australia. End of story.

So why should it spark a furore? In 2014, England allrounder Moeen Ali sported wristbands that said “Free Palestine” and “Save Gaza”. The ICC was quick to admonish Ali, and that was the last we heard of it. Sport should never be used as a platform for symbolism. When that happens, sport ceases to be sport.

We could argue that Dhoni’s case is different. He is an honorary lieutenant-colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Indian Territorial Army. The dagger insignia is the regiment’s emblem. Dhoni must have embossed it on the gloves in a display of loyalty to the regiment. Much like Apple fanboys and fangirls, who sport the Apple logo on their cars or bikes.

To me, Dhoni’s move wasn’t a surprise. He has always been swift to display his attachment to the paramilitary unit. He has worn the army uniform while receiving Padma Bhushan award from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.

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In March, Dhoni handed out army-style caps to the Indian players for the match against Australia. The Board for Control of Cricket in India said the Indian team wore the caps as a tribute to the Pulwama terror attack victims and to raise funds for the education of the dependents of the victims. The gesture sparked a debate on social media, wondering whether symbolism has a place in sport.

Given Dhoni’s love for his regiment, it wasn’t surprising he wore the Balidan, the dagger emblem, on his gloves. Perhaps, he wasn’t aware of the ICC rules that prevent the display of logos or individual messages on clothing or equipment. That could explain his silence when a debate raged on the mainstream and social media in India.

In these days of hyper-nationalism, it is only to be expected. Most of the debate pointed out that the logo was not political, religious or racial. The ICC press release says: “The regulations for ICC events do not permit any individual message or logo to be displayed on any items of clothing or equipment. In addition to this, the logo also breaches the regulations in relation to what is permitted on wicketkeeper gloves.

Rules are there to be followed. The BCCI seemed to be caught up in the wave of hysteria on social media and sent a formal request to the ICC seeking clearance for Dhoni to keep wearing the gloves with the logo. As the custodian of the game in the country, BCCI should have been aware of the rules and should not have taken up the matter due to public pressure. The ICC snub certainly left its nose bloodied.

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Worse was to follow. Several politicians too were quick to advise Dhoni to keep the logo on the gloves. Some even sported Balidan on their Twitter display image. This is nothing but misplaced patriotism.

If Indians care about the armed forces, support them through other avenues. Donate funds for their family pension and the education of the martyrs’ children. A logo is a mere symbol. It draws attention. Call it publicity. The Indian Army doesn’t need publicity. That was why they were quick to distance themselves from the controversy.

It’s just that Dhoni’s fanboy moment was hijacked by the social media and the politicians. The former Indian captain knew it. He realised it was a breach of rules. Which is why the logo vanished from his gloves.

In the end, it was much ado about nothing.

Well, Dhoni deserves a salute.

What actually happened?

By Dona Cherian, News Editor, Web

MS Dhoni fields
MS Dhoni fields during the group stage match between South Africa and India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Dhoni and his glove made headlines this past week, and not because he played with the Indian team in its first match of the Cricket World Cup against South Africa. His wicket-keeping gloves proudly featured the regimental dagger insignia of the Indian Para Special Forces. The insignia, also called the 'Balidaan' badge was spotted on his gloves as television replays showed him stumping Phehlukwayo in the 40th over of the innings bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal.

Balidaan is a distinct insignia of the special forces, which form part of the Parachute Regiment. It has a commando dagger pointed downwards, with upward-extending wings extending from the blade and a scroll superimposed on the blade with 'Balidaan' inscribed in Devanagari script. Only Paramilitary Commandos are allowed to wear the Balidaan badge.

It was not the first instance when Dhoni was seen making his support for the Indian forces public on the cricket field.

After the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF troopers lost their lives, Dhoni came out with an idea of wearing camouflage caps during an ODI against Australia in March. The entire team, along with Dhoni, was seen sporting camouflage caps in their bid to pay tribute to the security personnel who lost their lives in the terror attack on February 14.

MS Dhoni: Captain and a gentleman

By Shyam A. Krishna, Opinion Editor

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni wearing his new gloves without an emblem on them during the World Cup match against Australia, at The Oval, London. Image Credit: Reuters

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not a purist’s delight. His batting and wicketkeeping methods certainly didn’t come from any cricketing manual. The strokes are all his own. In fact, he invented the helicopter shot. The popularity of the stroke is ample testimony to the success of the Jharkhand player’s unorthodox methods.

At the twilight of his career, Dhoni can look back at his career and take pride in his bushelful of accomplishments. For a player born in 1981 in Ranchi and learned his cricket in one of the states considered the backwaters of Indian cricket, Dhoni opened the floodgates for cricketers from all over the country. Until then, most of the Indian stars hailed from Mumbai, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

With flowing locks, the ticket examiner in the Indian Railways, broke into the Indian side in 2004. Dhoni’s penchant for quick scoring fetched him a place in the ODI and Twenty20 squads, before graduating to the Test team. His consistency ensured that there was no competition for the wicketkeeping slot.

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His elevation to captaincy was a natural progression and provided a glimpse of Dhoni the thinking cricketer. Leading a ragtag outfit, shorn of the Indian stars, Dhoni’s team won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, much the surprise of everyone.

Very quiet and unflappable, Dhoni came to be known as Captain cool. Under his leadership, India won in all the formats – the No.1 Test ranking (18 months from December 2009), the World Cup (50 overs) in 2011 and the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007 (South Africa).

As captain, Mahi (as he was fondly called) steered the Chennai SuperKings to three IPL titles.

Given the nature of his game, it would be easy to think of Dhoni as an instinctive leader. No, he was very cerebral in his approach. His press conferences gave an insight into his thinking. Indian captains generally tend to spout standard lines to describe the day’s play. But not Dhoni. He would break it down to small passages of play, and pinpoint precisely what went wrong or right. The answers were so nuanced that it was sheer to joy to listen to him.

When Dhoni hangs up his gloves at the end of this World Cup, India will miss one its legends. A man who shunned the spotlight. But one who scripted some of the glorious chapters in the annals of the game.

Balidaan badge: Politics in cricket? Indian tweeple debate

By Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor

Is sports being mixed with politics? Indian tweeps debate

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Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: On June 7, The International Cricket Council (ICC) ruled that Indian cricketer MS Dhoni could not keep a military insignia on his wicket-keeping gloves during the ongoing World Cup.

Indians, who were urging Dhoni for days to keep the logo, took to Twitter to express disappointment at ICCs decision.

The former Indian captain is an honorary lieutenant colonel of a reserve force called the Territorial Army in India’s Parachute Regiment. On June 5, during India’s opening World Cup game against South Africa in Southampton in England, Dhoni was seen sporting the “Balidaan Badge”, an army insignia on his glove, with the word 'Baldiaan' inscribed on the logo. Balidaan, is Hindi for sacrifice.

Dhoni’s gesture did not go down well with the ICC, which cited rules and said that a player cannot sport anything except the logos of sponsors on gloves. They said the logo flouts ICC equipment and clothing regulations that do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match.

Twitter India debates

A debate ensued on Twitter - Is the Balidaan Badge a political message? No, said many.

Tweep @Upadhyayji_23 posted: “The Balidaan badge doesn’t violate any of these regulations, so why ask it to be removed? #DhoniKeepTheGlove.”

Prominent news anchors did not lose opportunity to fan the ‘Balidaan’ fire and soon, the debate moved to prime segments on news channels.

Much Ado About Nothing?

While many said BCCI should continue to fight ICCs decision, some said the issue was being blown out of proportion.

@ArnabjitSur tweeted: “Cricket is very different from an actual war-field. International sporting protocols take precedence against nationalistic elements like the ‘Balidaan Badge’. Journalists should stop rabble-rousing under the garb of reporting.”

And, @arelanikhil tweeted: “This whole glove controversy is being blown out of proportion. Respect Dhoni for his love towards our forces but when ICC says it’s disallowed, respect rules and move on. This isn’t an insult to armed forces. And anyway the legitimacy of a sports body is the last thing they require.

Keep politics out of cricket

Tweep @dipesh_khanal like many others said politics should be kept out of the gentleman’s game. He wrote: “Sports persons like #Dhoni are no doubt, excellent cricketers, they carry the machismo a little too far. Wearing army insignia on gloves is absolutely meaningless. If Dhoni has any sense he should humbly comply with the ICC rules. Dear Mahi, let cricket be kept aside with politics.”

And, @Kumargautamkg added: “The gloves came to #Dhoni only after he became a cricket player par excellence. He needs to play cricket to be greatest. Keep the politics and false sense of nationalism out of it.”

Dhoni in politics?

Tweep @mukeshkeshan posted: “Dhoni is sensible and soon wants to land into politics after retirement from cricket... get it.”

@NITINKML tweeted: “How does Dhoni think the glove controversy makes the rest of the team look ? Like ‘See, I am the only man who cares about our military - the rest are just into cricket’. Looks like he is set to follow [cricketer Gautam] Gambhir into electoral politics - I only wish he wouldn’t choose WC to start!”

Is Dhoni getting a psychological boost or playing mind games?

By A.K.S. Satish, Senior Pages Editor

The wicketkeeper’s strength lies in his mental attitude

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.