I always wanted to write about this Lion hearted man, his exit from the Test cricket provided me the much needed platform to thank him for bringing some smiles on our faces.
Whenever I hear his name – a sense of serenity, calmness reflects through his character. A man who was no near to what he’s today. A man who broke into the world, where people are judged by their technique rather merely by their personalities. I’m not here to discuss his career stats or his technique.
I guess we all know that, in a way, very well. I’m here to tell you – Why Mahendra Singh Dhoni has set a bizarre trait? I always call him – ‘Destiny’s favorite child’. No, not only because he has a charming luck, but because he has created one by his devotion towards the game. I don’t think anyone knew him, in fact, anyone was meant to.
I certainly didn’t know him very well. When MSD is not playing cricket – He has a life. He is definitely not thinking about cricket but something else. He belongs to that rare species of cricketers- who are not trapped by the game. We all are, in some ways, because cricket offers us so much. It fills our lives, but Dhoni is in it and yet detached. He will talk about bikes (Crazy about bikes), about planes, about guns, about wanting to become a sniper!
His story is the story of- how a ticket inspector in the Railways from Ranchi has become the most popular cricketer of his time, the most financially successful and, by a long way, the most sought after is the ultimate Indian middle-class dream. With a batting technique that inspired images of woodcutters with hefty axes, a wicket keeping method that even a football goalkeeper may not aspire to and a captaincy style so unique that it spanned everything from outlandish in the limited-overs formats to ultra conservative in Test matches.
MS Dhoni is amongst the most unique commodities of Cricket. This modern Midas (The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched with his hand into gold) fetched success in every format he played.
To be frank, I’m not very much surprised with his decision to quit captaincy. Yes, I will support this act of him for the betterment of Indian Cricket. I actually thought he would continue playing as a team member, but to astonish every one of us, he hung his boots. I remember, once I told my friends that- unlike others he won’t stretch his career way to long; I predict he might do the same to ODI cricket as well. (If he thinks he can lead post World Cup 2015 then only he’ll continue). One day he will walk away from cricket for not to come again- and will serve to the country in the Indian Army.
The best gambler by far, MS Dhoni; it’s very hard to make head or tail of Mahi’s decisions. He handed the ball to Ishant Sharma for the fourth time in Champions Trophy final in tight defense of a low score, when all and sundry believed it was a wrong move. He decides to let things simmer and come to a boil before he chooses to brandish his broad blade, like he did against Australia at Adelaide in the 2012 Commonwealth Bank Series.
He let us made amazed by unknown Joginder Sharma bowl the last over of the 2007 ICC T20 World Cup and the most surprising thing for me – when he actually came in to bat by promoting himself in the order surpassing Yuvraj, who was in sublime form, in the global showpiece final i.e. World Cup. For a moment, millions of Indians must have puzzled – Is he out of his mind? But eventually we all know what happened.
He is indeed someone- who takes his decisions and then proves them right. How many of us have such rare, bold decision-making ability? When asked for clarifications, he cheekily says – “You need to figure it out for yourselves. If I tell you everything about how I think, there won’t be any more secrets for me to keep, will there?’’ Indeed, it determines how the weirdest of brains of world cricket has the potential to pull off unreal things.
One more fact, makes him the perfect element to make it into the elite of legends, is- he never seemed to allow the surround sound of being captain to affect him (as an individual) nor did the enormous opulence of being a star athlete ever fluctuated him from his instinct. I never saw him being carried away by the public eye. Sometimes I wonder how these people (legends) hold themselves grounded.
Indeed, it’s a herculean task to stick around your originality. The paradigm of calm, cool, compose- has never met any controversies by his own admissions. There is a Zen-like composure to MSD that is most attractive in this age of hype, which doesn’t allow him to be unsettled. If the pressures of captaincy were getting to him, he never showed it. There was a very rare celebration on the account of victories otherwise he is a silent warrior. Now that he has retired from the longer format, we sense that he could have made it a grand send-off but he preferred to fade away quietly.
Once Rahul Dravid said – ”MS Dhoni never asked me to do something which he did not do.” This quote is enough to describe his graciousness towards his peers.
A simple yet destructive (in the slog) Ranchi boy, the best finisher so far cricket has ever produced (I know Michael Bevan is also one of the strong contenders for this title). There was a time when India resembled headless chickens in tight run chases. Their history is littered with all the blood and gore from derailed efforts – but the times, they have changed.
India now has Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He has not yet finished because while he has finished with Test cricket, he remains in the form he has been far better at. But he has walked away with no fuss at all. In a nation that is obsessed with being center-stage, I am not sure he ever sought it. Remember the long-haired new captain who had just won India the first World T20? He had given away his match shirt to someone in the crowd and was walking away quietly.
The more suave captain who had won India the World Cup of 2011? Spot him in any of the pictures? He never seeks the lime-light. He let it be Sachin Tendulkar’s moment. He let it be about Indian cricket. It wasn’t about him and he didn’t force himself into every frame. It was, actually, his evening but he looked at it from a far. I thought it was damn cool. The sign of a confident man. He made a statement by not being there. I don’t know if that is cool today but he rose in my eyes. He has raised the bar of gentleman ship and it will be really difficult for someone who’s seeking to follow his footsteps (no I’m not talking about Virat Kohli – He’s got his own style), let alone to eclipse his generosity.
Cricket always talks about form, numbers, technique – I would say form is something, which, he is not associated with. The reason – I never saw him playing the cricket book shots; he has developed his own theory of tapping (rather hitting) the cricket ball all-around. This talisman does not belong to any particular class of batsmen; He is someone who loves to play the way he wants to – does not bother about the criticism of cricket pundits.
At times, they pointed a finger on his technique; but stats tell us – an average of 38 at number 7 was not an easy task to do. Of which, many a times he had to bat with our famous tail-enders (Indeed they are famous – I mean even Bangladeshi number 11 batsman can do better than them). Maybe, Dhoni could not translate the magic to test cricket; maybe a long drawn out format sat uneasily with a cricketer – who was a product of the age when cricket has become an instant entertainment.
Certainly, as a Test captain, Dhoni had his limitations and at times seemed to switch off in a five day match. In overseas conditions, his loose technique was often found out, and yet, he did lead India to the number one spot in test cricket and did it without changing either his game or his demeanor.
There, he is the poker player, in his element with the cards he holds close to his chest. The 33 year old has always kept himself at a mystery and, still is; even at the last day of his in whites, he exchanged pleasantries with the Aussie players, after the match which- was fraught with frayed temper – never for a moment hinting that he had played his last Test match at a historic venue. Unlike others who chose their home turfs to bow out, Dhoni quietly walked into the dusk of an overhauling Test career. There were no guard of honour, no standing ovation and no drama. But he has walked away with no fuss at all. They called it the ‘Mahi Way.’ That’s the dominance of serenity- that’s all about Dhoni.
I feel it is an incredible journey loaded with a lot of self-belief, aspiration and of course luck in huge amounts. This all combine synergistically- he came up with a character called Dhoni; otherwise he would have been just another T.C. at Ranchi Railway Station. I’m glad, he is not.
Playing cricket for India was then not just a dream for MSD, it was a bonus. Which is why he is unique- a street-smart cricketer who liked to do things his way, who excited crowds with the sheer power of his strokes but also encouraged his teammates to stave off pressure and emulate his no nonsense attitude. Which is why Indian cricket will miss him, when he retires from all forms of the game. Till then, all one can celebrate his test career – Thank You MSD. And yes, do play the helicopter shot in the World Cup 2015 final too! (you know what I mean)