If ‘Age is just a number’ still holds its relevance, it is certainly due to the prolific players and exemplary leaders like MSD. In a cricketing era dominated by the in-game strategies and team tactics, Dhoni without any doubt is remembered for his cool-headedness and calmness in nail-biting situations and his presence of mind on the field.
7th July i.e 7/7 marks the birthday of the former Indian captain and current wicket-keeper batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni- the captain that won India the World Cup. He has always had that special feeling with number 7 which is evident enough from his jersey number as well. Initially renowned for his long hair which was even praised by Parvez Musharraf back then, Captain cool gained prominence because of his ability to clear the ground easily with minimum effort. But it was in 2007 when the young 26-year-old lad, who was leading a young side for the first time, was given the charge of captaining this side in the first edition of the World T-20 that he became the headline of almost every single newspaper.
When India won the World T-20 in 2007 held in South Africa, even the most optimist would not have predicted this were to happen. It was this time when the Dhoni Era had marked its arrival and what most fans witnessed was a young captain running shirtless with a trophy, then enjoying a ride on an expensive bike and finally reviving every Indian cricket fan from the thrashing World Cup exit in the same year. A small boy from Ranchi, who dreamed and believed was now suddenly making every Indian believe that the World Cup is viable and that too when we were the ones hosting it in 2011. What followed was yet, something more astounding. India won the first CB series in Australia in 2008 and the dream appeared even more closer. He was soon made the captain of the Test team following the retirement of Anil Kumble and now the aim was just one and that was to win.
The occasional bulging of the eyes, the annoyingly incessant fastening and unfastening of the gloves, the odd tilt of the head behind the stumps, the lookup to the heavens, the thumb reaching out for the periphery of the left eye, the flapping of the shoulders in one sudden circular motion. MS Dhoni is unique and peculiar in every possible way. Hailing from a very small town of Ranchi, Dhoni dared to dream and with courage and guts make that dream a reality. Since a very young age, he idolized Sachin Tendulkar, well known as the God of Cricket and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan. He started his career as a Ticket Collector in Indian Railways. Who knew back then that this ticket collector would go down in history as India’s most successful captain.
Having won the World T-20, the World Cup, and the Champion’ Trophy all within a span of again 7 years- a feat that took decades for West Indies to achieve, MSD became the first-ever captain to bag all the ICC trophies. In the 12 editions of the IPL, he had led his team Chennai Super Kings to the playoffs on all 10 occasions that they been a part of winning 3 of them. More importantly, he is the player with most IPL final appearances. His record of more than 10000 runs in ODI cricket is phenomenal when it comes to a batsman who has batted below no.5 in most of his career. He averages more than 100 in successful chases in ODI Cricket demonstrating how lethal he can be as a finisher. Criticized in the early part of his career for his wicket-keeping skills, he is currently one of the most successful wicket-keepers of his generation and not to forget the fact that even if you are out for a millisecond, he can pull off the bails and stump you.
His knock of 183 not out against Sri Lanka in a chase is one of the innings where he made an impression and was praised even by the opponents. His knock of 224 against Australia in a test match was yet something extraordinary where he added more than 150 run for the 8th wicket with a tailender Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. It was his ability to bat with tailenders that boosted his performance as a finisher as he just did not talk to them but also rotated strikes frequently showing a lot of trust in them. His last over finish playing for Rising Pune Supergiants against Punjab in the 9th edition of the IPL again left many fans completely stunned. RPS needed 23 runs from 6 balls and later the equation was reduced to 12 runs required from 2 balls and then he showed who the boss was by hitting 2 on 2 and wining it for RPS. However, despite all this, his favorite innings has to be the 91 he scored against Sri Lanka in the World Cup 2011. Not having a good World Cup so far, he decided to bat up to face the likes Muralidharan and other spinners and maintain that left-right combo in the middle. That was the innings that mattered the most and ultimately decided the fate of the World Cup.
It was his out of the box and thoughtful decisions that brought marvel and glory to Indian Cricket. Giving the last over to Joginder Sharma over Harbhajan Singh in the final of the World T-20 in 2007, promoting himself above the well in form Yuvraj Singh in the final of the World Cup 2011 and trusting Ishant Sharma over Ravi Ashwin in the third last over of the final of the Champions Trophy final in 2013 against England were not just brave and bold decisions but history-making steps taken under immense pressure situations. One needs to be both strong and calm while taking them and who is better than MSD when it comes to calmness. It was his policy to promote youngsters and give them an ample amount of opportunities. Rohit Sharma still credits MSD for the success he got as an opener and how this move actually lifted his career. Virat Kohli, the current Indian Captain believes that he would have been dropped from the Test squad had MSD not backed him after his horrific England tour of 2014 where he could only manage 134 runs in 10 innings. Shane Watson, the player who almost won the 4th IPL for CSK which they lost last year by 1 run told in an interview that with his form in the entire IPL season of 2019, he would have been sent back home from any team but it was Dhoni who backed him and supported him even after continuous failures and that eventually, he returned to form when it mattered the most.
Popularly known as ‘Thala’ because of the love he receives from Chennai, MS Dhoni has been out of International Cricket for almost a year now. Indian Cricket team has still not been able to find his true replacement and I guess they will never be able to. The last time he was seen was probably just one of those moments when we see a sad MSD as he could not win another World Cup for India- which could have been his last one. He is often criticized for being too slow and taking too many deliveries to settle but what many fail to understand is that what he does or has been doing for the past 15 years, nobody has been able to do or has even looked good taking his role. As the Indian Coach, Shastri said that it would never be easy to fill his place.
The best gift to him would definitely be the World T-20 this year and if this year it does not take place due to the pandemic, then of the one scheduled in 2021. As cricketing fans, we hope that MSD does not surprise us again with a shocking retirement just like he did 6 years back when he suddenly out of nowhere announced his retirement from Test Cricket and then 3 years later suddenly decided to withdraw himself from the captaincy of ODI and T-20 Cricket. Lastly, in the words of the legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar-“The last thing I want to see before I die is the six Dhoni hit that won us the World Cup”.
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