Dhoni smiling
Credits - PTI

MS Dhoni made me smile, a million times!

I always want a fascinating story to continue. But it’s impossible, so the story must have a closure. The closure makes a delightful journey, fulfilled and worth remembering.

The recent announcement gave me the feeling of ending but in the right way. I was uncertain about Dhoni giving us the closure, but he did. His retirement took me on a trip down the memory lane, where I relived the best moments of my childhood.

His decision has been coming, but it still hurts. It is a very odd coincidence for someone who is considered as the best runner between the wickets, to start and end career with a runout.

It was 2008, and like most other Indians, I had a negative opinion about Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Then, he was the captain of the Indian team and Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were dropped from the ODI team, though he won the world cup for India (at that time I didn’t know the importance of captain). I started to hate him. Looking back to those days, I feel how immature and uneducated I was about cricket. Later when I began to decipher cricket, his greatness started to unravel.

MS Dhoni handing over the captaincy to Sourav Ganguly. ©AFP

Dhoni – The Finisher

He was arguably the best finisher in the world, but it was not the case at the beginning of his career.

He used to play with swagger in those days. He has an unconventional way when it comes to batting style. The way he defends the ball, it is very much fun to look. He played fearlessly at every stage. He batted a bit up the order and used to play his natural game. The way he used to hit the ball, it was almost like he was putting all his frustration out which otherwise he didn’t show.

His game changed after a Champions Trophy match in 2006. India was chasing only 126. And Dhoni, while going for a big hit, threw his wicket away, leaving behind a thin lower-order, high and dry. India eventually won the game. Dhoni learned a vital lesson that would shape his ODI batting especially while chasing. This must-have shaped his decision to remain a finisher instead of promoting himself up the order when he became the captain.

He likes to take the game as deep as possible. When the opposition bowler is under pressure, he attacks him. This way he won a countless number of matches for India. However, his habit of taking the game deep was under criticism during the last few years.

The 2011 World Cup winning moment with the legend Yuvraj Singh. ©AFP

Detachment of Dhoni

The incidence which may have had a prolonged impact on him was the 2007 World Cup. The fans who love him so much threw stones at his house and burned his statue. And just after 4-5 months, the mob gathered around his house but this time for a completely opposite reason. They were dying for a glimpse of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He then realised that his position is hollow and deceptive, it can go any time.

He once said, “I have three dogs at home. Even after losing a series or winning a series, they treat me the same way.”

Rahul Dravid once said that, “He has a unique ability to ignore consequences and soak up pressure.”. Which certainly would have helped him when he became the captain. And yes, that’s where those out of box decisions came from.

MSD always tries to stay away from the spotlight. Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, wrote that “He played in the sun and lives in the shadow”. Every time he would handover the trophy to some youngster in the team and stand aside. Whether it is handing over the WorldCup to Shrisant in 2007 or Sachin in 2011 or to a younger one in 2013. It is an unusual ability, especially for a cricketer in the country like India but he is just like that.

While leaving the test cricket, he didn’t make it loud. He just announced his retirement and walked away. Similarly when it comes to ODI and T20 cricket. He just walks away without grandeur. He didn’t make a fuss about it.

©Associated Press

Dhoni – The Limited Over Captain

Like Harsha says, he is the poker player. He holds the best cards close to his chest. He is a legend, almost incomparable. When the surface is slightly helpful for his bowlers, especially spinners he is unstoppable. His commentary behind the stumps was a treat to listen to.

There is one incident described in the book “The Dhoni Touch” written by Bharat Sunderan. He writes, in 2008 India was on the verge of winning against Australia in commonwealth series. It was the starting phase of his captaincy. He was at the crease with Rohit Sharma, just before the victory he sends the message in the dressing room that “nobody should celebrate once we win the match.” In those days, Australia was unbeatable at home. They believed that a loss is an upset and not a win for the opponent. To tell them that it is not a big deal for us to beat Australia in Australia and it’s our regular win. He sent the message & no one celebrated. This is Mahi’s way of dealing with the success ‘usme kaun si badi baat hai!’

He is unknowable, As Harsh Bhogle says “…there is always an element of mystery and intrigue around him, no one could predict what his next move will be?”

The first time the world sees his unpredictability, calmness and out of the box thinking is when he gave Joginder Sharma the last over of the World cup. Joginder Sharma told about that incidence that Mahi told him, “ You have bowled so many overs in domestic cricket with so much dedication when no one was watching. Don’t worry, Cricket won’t let you down.”

Dhoni after winning the 2007 T20 World Cup. ©Getty Images

He has given us other such incidences. Like, promoting Rohit Sharma to open in 2013 champion trophy, giving an out of form Ishant Sharma the penultimate over in 2013 champion trophy final. Going out to bat ahead of the Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 world cup final, amongst many others.

In 2017 He decided to step down from captaincy, but we still knew that he was the captain of India.

Dhoni – The Unorthodox Wicketkeeper

Like his batting, his wicketkeeping is unorthodox. He collects the ball in a fish mouth position. At the start, he was criticised as” he is not a wicketkeeper but a goalkeeper”.

This goalkeeper, with his unconventional skills, redefined stumping. If you are out of your crease and if Dhoni can’t get you out stumping, no one will. It is as simple as that. His technique of deflecting a throw directly on the stumps without looking took many crucial wickets.

When asked about wicketkeeping, he said, “…don’t follow me. Follow Saha he has the best technique for a wicketkeeper.”

MS Dhoni pulled off a brilliant stumping to remove Kevin Pietersen. ©Getty Images

Along with Sachin, Dhoni is undoubtedly the best one day player India has ever produced. He gave us a moment to cherish for a lifetime when he hit that six over long-on in the World cup final. He shows us a down to earth superstar. And he teaches us how to be calm under pressure, how to soak all the tension and how to produce results under such circumstances. Through his batting, he shows us there is always a bit more time available than you think. He teaches us to live in the moment.

In our society, we require a hero, a role model to look up to. Dhoni is the perfect person to look up as a hero.

Dhoni said in an interview, “A perfect smile is too often missing from the faces of the world. If cricket can provide more smiles, it is doing its job.”

Dhoni made me smile a million times. Thank you, Mahi.

An emotional MS Dhoni is hugged by Sachin Tendulkar after India’s WC 2011 victory. ©Getty Images

Let us know your Dhoni memories in the Comments.