I shall not call myself your fan but I shall call myself your admirer. You might not agree but there is a difference. A fan is oblivious to your flaws but an admirer cherry-picks certain qualities that are praiseworthy. When you made your debut in 2004, I was in my teens and I had a peculiar disliking for your bleached hair. Nevertheless, being an ardent follower of cricket, as I watched you play, I knew for sure that you will remain a part of my cricket love for a long time. But this world cup, when people from all around the world started pouring their unwanted suggestions on Twitter asking you to retire, I felt a hollow in my heart. A shadow of doubt darkened my mind. I wondered what Indian Cricket would be like if you are not a part of it!
Knowing that your cricket journey so far has fetched you laurels of all kinds it would not be wrong to say that you have not only earned respect but the love of millions. However, it saddened me when I learnt that people’s expectations from you are so high that even they are unaware of what they are wishing for. As citizens of India and as a true cricket fan, I will forever be indebted to you for winning ICC Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, Asia Cups in 2010 and 2016, ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 and ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. But I do not know how to apologize on the behalf of millions of people who accuse you of being the reason behind the failure of Indian Team in this World Cup.
Your intent in the ‘death overs’ has been criticized heavily during this World Cup. They say that you have been struggling with you strike rate and that you slog in the death overs. Once known to be one of the best finishers of the game, you were seen struggling to score the necessary runs on the ‘unfavourable’ pitch. They called your innings against Afghanistan ‘lethargic’ because you scored 28 of 52 balls. It didn’t surprise me when Tendulkar (the one who has been proclaimed as the God of Cricket), too, criticized your form and questioned your intent. While no one quite took note of how Jadhav’s intent could have raised eyebrows, your contribution of 41 runs to the grand total remained insignificant. To top it all, media didn’t leave any stone unturned in blemishing your image by posting news with catchy titles in the public domain. Some of the articles were titled as: Mr Cool Losing His Streak? (Mind you- they had a graph too). But all this still seemed unconvincing because I couldn’t find an answer to just one question- If it weren’t for you, could the bowlers have given their 100%?
The incessant bashing seemed baseless because the so-called cricket fans forgot to acknowledge the fact that the presence of a senior player behind the wickets was enough for the team to snatch victory from Afghanistan- even if it was in the last over. Why couldn’t anybody find fault with K L Rahul or Pandya? Why didn’t anyone question the credibility of Kohli as a captain? I think it is because of your image as a Captain Cool. Only if you were hot-headed like Gauti or Kohli, people wouldn’t have dared to decide your life. While haters were busy hating, you kept your cool and gave out your best on the field. Not only did you show your prowess in stumping at lightning speed but also proved your selflessness when you held the non-striker’s end and let Jadeja aim for boundaries.
Even though the belligerence of youth might not adorn your face now, the assurance and the excitement that fills my mind when you come to the field is immense.
Mahi, you are a natural! Your intent to put the interest of the team first and then think about self is something that I look up to. Your confidence in the younger players shows how open-minded you are. Not that you haven’t had your share of woes and weal, but I just want to remind you of your strength- the strength that will keep you going even now.
I don’t know what you go through on the field but I do know that you are a role model for all the youngsters who aspire to touch the sky! The least I can do is speak for myself and I am grateful to you for being a part of Indian Cricket Team in the World Cup 2019. The journey wouldn’t have been this long if you weren’t there.
Therefore, I urge you to not retire because people want you to retire. Retire only if that is your inner calling.