New Delhi: A bitter battle that has shaken the foundations of Indian cricket; an incident that has stained India's favourite sport to such an extent that it will take years to wash it clean; an episode which will have long lasting effects on the future generations of Indian cricketers and how they cope with their teammates.
So here's the question the whole of India wants an answer to: Why? Why in god's name did VVS Laxman not invite Dhoni home for dinner?
Did he not know that the 5 star hotel where Mahi and his team were staying had suspended room-service that night, after the hotel manager decided to give majority of his service staff an off-day, compensating them for working on the 15th of August?
Yes, the restaurants in the team hotel were operational. But, with the public adulation that the Indian skipper enjoys you can't expect him to dine in a public place. He'd get mobbed for god sake!
Of course, he could have sneaked out for dinner to a quiet place in town. But, I am afraid the local police had issued directives to the players that they can only leave the hotel if a relative or a friend came to pick them up. Not an acquaintance, but ONLY a relative or a friend. Unfortunately, our very own Ranchi ka Rajkumar doesn't have too many relatives in the Golkonda region and the only friend he had in the city (read Laxman) didn't want to come and pick him up.
Add to that, this trip to Hyderabad happened to be one of those rare cricket tours where Mahi wasn't accompanied by his charming wife Sakshi. The lovely home maker that she is, she would have certainly cooked up a nice Indian meal for hubby dearest at the 11th hour. After all, she is known to carry one of those electrical cookers along every time she accompanies her husband on cricket tours.
That brings me to the all-important question - where did the most loved Indian cricketer in recent times eat on that unfateful night of 21st August? Or did he go to bed without eating a morsel, on the eve of a crucial encounter against arch rivals New Zealand?
The truth will be told in due course. But before that, let's try and discover the other side of this heart wrenching story.
So here's what I suspect happened in the Laxman household on the eve of the Hyderabad Test:
Every cricketer worth his salt (excuse the pun) knows that the Laxmans are pure vegetarians. But, it's also common knowledge that Mahi loves his chicken, especially ahead of a crucial game (it works brilliantly as fodder and also gives the skipper the necessary energy to 'egg' his team on during a match)
So, the dilemma that VVS and his wife Sailaja found themselves in was - Should the age old Brahmin tradition of the Laxman household be broken? Or should they deny the skipper of the Indian team a chance of eating his favourite meal, thereby risking a below par performance by him during the match? VVS favoured the latter, while wife Shailaja was keen on the first option. In the end, the interest of the nation came first and it was decided non-veg food will be cooked for the first time in the Laxman house.
VVS- 1, Sailaja- 0
The next hurdle was- How should the chicken be cooked? Laxman announced that Punjabi butter chicken was Dhoni's favourite. But Sailaja was having none of that. After all, she was a master at Hyderabadi cuisine, having won various food competitions in the neighbourhood. After an argument that lasted over an hour with a few broken glasses, the result:
VVS- 1, Sailaja- 1
But just when it seemed all settled and VVS was about to call Dhoni for dinner, reality dawned upon him! For a captain who doesn't answer his teammates phone when he needs help in making the most important decision in his life (read retirement) there was no chance in hell he would honour the same teammate's dinner invite. So, better sense prevailed and the most humble cricketer of our times decided against inviting his over worked skipper for dinner at his place.
And in case you are wondering what did MS have for dinner that night? Thank god for his sponsors, a few packets of chips lay(s) in his suitcase. Chicken flavoured I might add!
(P.S.: It's a humour piece and must not be taken seriously. But then you already knew that, didn't you?)