Dhoni's Balidaan badge controversy: It is the regimental dagger insignia of the Indian Para Special Forces, which MS Dhoni has earned, says Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd).
Dhoni’s Balidaan badge controversy: It was a dream come true for the former Indian cricket team Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who in 2011 officially became honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army (TA) when the army chief at that time Gen VK Singh pipped his rank on his shoulders. The honorary commission was approved by the former President Pratibha Patil in recognition of his achievements in the game of cricket. Dhoni had led India to victory in the cricket World Cup that year and was instrumental in taking the team to the top spot in Test rankings for the first time a year before that. He had also led the team to victory in the inaugural T20 World championship in 2007.
Since he had chosen Para Regiment, he was commissioned into the elite Para Regiment in the presence of the Colonel of the Regiment, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia at that time. He had chosen the Para Regiment as he wanted to be part of a regiment that had members from all over the country and from all regiments of the Indian Army. And was given the maroon beret which made him a member of the elite Parachute Regiment which involves rigorous combat and airborne operations training.
Dhoni took this very seriously and trained for it and completed the rigorous training including the five jumps as part of the course. The former cricket captain has been always visiting and meeting soldiers and personnel at the borders and cantonments and encouraging them. Before Dhoni, senior cricketers Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar too has been conferred honorary ranks in the armed forces.
What is Balidaan Badge?
It is the regimental dagger insignia of the Indian Para Special Forces, which Dhoni has earned, says Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd).
The insignia has a commando dagger pointing downwards and has upward-extending wings – which extends from the blade. There is a scroll superimposed on the blade with “Balidaan” inscribed in Devanagari. The whole insignia is in silver metal on an upright red plastic rectangle, meant exclusively for the Para Commandos.
Dhoni underwent a two-week initial training with the elite Para regiment of the force in Agra in 2015. And has also completed five parachute jumps at the end of his course.
Does this mean he is a Para Commando?
No. Para Commandos is a Special Forces unit of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiment. They are tasked with special operations including counter-terrorism, special reconnaissance, personnel recovery, hostage rescue, etc.
As a TA officer, he cannot join Para Commandos (SF) of Indian Army, as he belongs to the Parachute Regiment and not Para-Commandos. There are two Infantry (Para) Battalions in the Territorial Army which any officer of TA can join.