Perhaps if the Indian people on Twitter try hard enough, they could just about get #FarewellforMSD trending worldwide. Maybe that will get the BCCI’s attention?
But the real question that we need to be asking ourselves is if MS Dhoni is the “only” Indian cricketer that deserves a farewell. I mean yes he led the country to its first World Cup in 28 years, yes he delivered India three ICC trophies and yes he took the side to the number one ranking in Test cricket, but what about the tens of fifteens of other servants of the country who did not get a proper send-off?
Are we going to leave them out in the cold? Will it be fair on those players who are now not using Dhoni’s retirement publicity to throw their names into the hat but are whole-heartedly and unironically presenting their side of the story and are expressing why the BCCI are obliged to give them a farewell? Players like Gambhir, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Pathan, who had as big an impact on Indian cricket as Dhoni, if not more, do they not deserve a proper farewell from the BCCI?
If it were up to me, it would be a big, confident ‘yes’. There is absolutely no reason for the BCCI NOT to give a send-off to these cricketers. In fact, Irfan Pathan’s idea might just be the best way to correct the wrongs of the past: arranging a ‘farewell’ match for XI players of the past, who were not sent-off properly, against the superstars of the present. This is a ‘one stone eleven birds’ scenario for the BCCI as aside from making the general public happy by giving a #FarewellforMSD, they will also subsequently end up graciously sending off the ex-players who they froze out unceremoniously.
For that to happen, however, the stigma surrounding a lot of players Pathan mentioned in his ‘XI’ needs to be erased. And that, exactly, is what I’m going to be hoping to achieve in the section below - traverse player by player for a few players and deconstruct how they were ‘unfairly’ phased out of the team and why they ought to be given a farewell game by the BCCI.
Aside from publicly dissing, berating the board and ex-skipper Dhoni, there is not much reason for the BCCI to not give a send-off to Gambhir. Ignoring the fact that he did not score a ton in his last 4 years of international cricket and averaged under 22 in his last 36 innings, Gambhir was rather unreasonably phased out of the team. He could, and should, in all fairness, have been given a shot ahead of both Dhawan and Rohit in the ODI side, and should have been given a permanent spot in the team after his 97 in the World Cup final, post which he averaged 36.40 in the format. Petty politics, as is evident from his numbers, resulted in Gambhir’s unceremonious axing from the Indian team and thus he, undoubtedly, deserves a #ProperSendOff.
Like Gambhir, it was pretty naive on the BCCI’s part to overlook Sehwag pre and post the 2013 Champions Trophy. For starters, both his fitness and his vision were on point and his form did not desert him either. He did, after all, across formats, average 29.72 with the bat post the 2011 World Cup, and it was not like one double century (which if taken away would have reduced his average to 25.85) skewed his numbers. It was also baffling that the board decided to move away from Sehwag, who was just 34 at the time of playing his last international game. It was short-sighted (no pun intended) of the board to abruptly force an experienced veteran out of the side and thus they will need to repay the debts they owe him by giving him a #ProperSendOff.
Yuvraj has been one of the very few Indian cricketers who has been vocal about the management’s mistreatment of him, and rightly so. He was only given 65 limited-over games by the selectors post his comeback into the side in mid-2012 and he only featured in 4 of the 5 ICC tournaments that India played between 2012 and 2017. Like Sehwag, the one big knock - 150 in Cuttack vs England - did not skew his ODI average post the 2011 WC (27.09), as he did average 21.7 across 25 innings minus that ton. Given he was only 36 in 2017 and given he was tearing the IPL apart even at that age, it was pretty fickle of the BCCI to axe Yuvraj from the team. It is only fair that he, like Sehwag and Gambhir, gets a #ProperSendOff.
What could have been the reason behind Chinna Thala announcing his retirement the same day as Thala? I mean, surely there was no way he wouldn’t have got the same reaction had he made the big announcement on a separate day? Surely? Either way, it is a tragedy that Raina ended up playing just 322 international games for the country. It is a shame that the BCCI did not give him a send-off / arrange him a farewell, particularly given the fact that he played a grand total of 3 ODIs in the last 5 years. In all fairness, they should have brushed aside the fact that he never lived up to his potential after having played over 300 games, ignored that he averaged 13.6 in the series versus South Africa in 2015 before he was dropped and invested in him for five more years to have stopped his premature retirement. If not his performances, Raina’s talent and potential demand a #ProperSendOff.
Zaheer Khan, all said and done, was arguably the unluckiest of the lot to have been phased out of the team. By 2012, not only was he 34 years young and fit as ever, but he was also, in terms of pace, outbowling his peers Praveen Kumar and RP Singh. Starting from 2012, Zaheer averaged 46.48 in the 12 Tests he played and it was rather bizarre that the management, in 2014, the BCCI decided to do away with a 36-year-old who was averaging over 45 two years preceding to his axe. If the BCCI had an ounce of shame, respect and ambition, they would have let Zaheer carry on for a couple of more years, let his average to hit a half-century and allowed him to walk out on his own terms - after arranging him a farewell match. Anyway, now is the perfect opportunity for the board to make up for their misstep by giving Zaheer a #ProperSendOff, you’d imagine.
Other players in Pathan’s XI who deserve a #ProperSendOff
For all the talent he possessed, Irfan Pathan did not play a single game of international cricket after the age of 28. He retired in 2020, at the age of 35, as a nobody, thus at least to respect the fact that he was once the ‘next Kapil Dev’, that he was once the best all-rounder in the country, Pathan deserves a #ProperSendOff.
Pragyan Ojha might have had an unintentional send-off in the same game as Sachin, but you’d imagine that he deserves an intentional send-off in the same game as Dhoni. I mean, surely a person with a 10-wicket-haul in their last ever game deserves a #ProperSendOff, right?
He might be one of India’s highest ever wicket-taker in ODIs, yes, but Ajit Agarkar deserves a #ProperSendOff for the simple fact that he is the only player from the entire 2007 WT20 squad that is simply not celebrated enough. I mean, come on folks, is this how you treat a World Cup winner?
Make it happen, BCCI. You have unfairly phased out far too many players and it is only fair that you give each and every one of them a #ProperSendOff. At least do it before more people jump on to the bandwagon.