2016 has been the year of cricket biopics, featuring two of India’s most successful cricket captains — Mohammad Azharuddin and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. While the Azhar movie was more like a caricature, the Dhoni movie released last week is slightly more true to life. The use of actual footage from matches, post-match ceremonies, make ‘Dhoni’ slightly more believable, unlike the Azhar movie which had matches recreated.
In the Azhar movie, the makers avoided using names and matches fearing legal repercussions because the subject was controversial. The Dhoni movie is more celebratory as the subject is a hero for many. But there were various aspects of the movie which just did not add up.
That Dhoni is a child of ODI cricket has always been apparent in his behaviour on the field. But the movie confirmed his dislike for the longest, oldest and purest format of the sport.
There was a cursory reference to India becoming number one Test team under Dhoni in 2009-10. More importantly the 2005-06 tour to Pakistan is known as much for his counter-attack in the Faisalabad Test against a fiery Shoaib Akhtar as for his exploits in the ODI series that followed.
There is a brief reference to his knock at Kolkata in 2009-2010 which played a part in India retaining their Number One Test team status. The other big moment in Dhoni’s Test career was his stonewall approach which helped India draw a lost cause at Lord’s in 2007.
Throughout his captaincy tenure, Dhoni’s relations with the seniors was a matter of speculation.
Again, the movie missed an opportunity to set the record straight. There is a scene in the movie where Dhoni is shown switching on the television and watching a news station speculating about his ‘fight’ with Virender Sehwag.
There is almost an attempt to mock tabloid news networks, instead of setting the record straight. The movie almost airbrushes the bad parts of Dhoni’s relations with his contemporaries, when it could have done more. Dhoni’s relations with almost everyone from Sehwag to Gautam Gambhir to Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have been frosty, at least when observed from afar. Also questions around VVS Laxman’s sudden retirement in 2012 remains unanswered.
The movie also shows a brief moment when Yuvraj and Dhoni cross paths as 19-year-olds, almost to show that some day they were meant to be superstars at the same time.
With Dhoni’s friend and manager Arun Pandey producing the movie, there is almost an attempt to forget the lows of his career.
The problems around Indian cricket started the moment Dhoni hit the six to win the World Cup. While the movie has dramatically shown how the six brought joy to the country to close the movie, what it did not show was what happened right after that.
India had won just the 2013 Champions Trophy, under Dhoni, since then, apart from beating Australia 4-0 at home. There have only been lows since that 2011 moment, like the 0-8 whitewashes in England and Australia being the nadir of them all.In fact in these five years there have been moments when Dhoni’s legacy as a captain has almost been wiped away.Dhoni and the movie makers missed a trick in not putting the lows as part of the movie as much as the highs, because that would have been the more ideal way to end a movie on a legend.