MS Dhoni has finally called time on a glorious international career which spanned nearly 16 years. He last played for India a little over a year ago and when he walked back dejected after being sensationally run out by Martin Guptill, it was clear the world had seen the last of Dhoni in India colours.
So as it turns out, MS Dhoni’s last appearance for India would be the thrilling 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand. Despite heroic efforts from Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, India fell just short of their 4th World Cup final.
For the next 12 months, fans speculated over MS Dhoni’s retirement. Out of the blue, Twitter trends would suggest MS Dhoni has retired but the rumours would be quashed quickly. In fact, Sakshi Dhoni had once angrily lashed out at such rumours before quickly deleting her tweet.
The last couple of years were not the best for MS Dhoni in an otherwise glittering career. He was often criticised for his slow strike rate and his inexplicably slow knock against England in a steep run chase during the World Cup raised eyebrows.
A year earlier when India had toured England, MS Dhoni was even booed by sections of the Indian crowd for his go-slow approach in an ODI run chase.
Despite the criticism, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri stood behind MS Dhoni like the Rock of Gibraltar. He was the alpha male senior in a team which thrived in confrontation. Dhoni’s presence had a calming effect on a perennially charged-up young captain and his cricketing acumen helped Virat Kohli wriggled out of several tight holes.
Everything about MS Dhoni’s landmark career decisions has been sudden. Without a hint of it, he announced his retirement from Test cricket after India had drawn the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Then in the first week of 2017, MS Dhoni came up with another shocker: he stepped down as India captain in the shorter formats.
But nothing MS Dhoni ever did on the field look like it wasn’t well planned or thought through. His field placements were precise and his use of the slower bowlers was a lesson in tactics to slow down the opposition run rate.
Most significantly, MS Dhoni was a master with the Decision Review System which has still not been mastered by most of India’s senior cricketers. Even after stepping down as captain, Dhoni was the go-to man for Virat Kohli if he needed to use the DRS. And Dhoni remained calm, unflappable even as his colleagues and captain appealed aggressively. And more often than not, Dhoni would be right.
MS Dhoni will be missed in the dressing room
MS Dhoni might have lost his touch with the bat but his cricketing instincts were sharp up until his last match for India. He helped keep Kohli cool and his assuring presence behind the stumps meant Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal blossomed into dangerous spinners in the shorter formats for India.
MS Dhoni will be missed. Immensely. Forgotten soon will be the fact that Dhoni wasn’t half the batsman he was in his heydays. But his astute leadership even after stepping down as captain would forever be etched in memory. He was a guiding light to a captain who sometimes could do with a cool head on the field and he was an elder brother to the young turks who walked in to the dressing room with starry eyes.
With Mahi bhai around, nothing could go wrong. Who cares whether he scores runs? Mahi could do the impossible with a simple waive of his gloves. A simple change in the field, an off-beat bowling change or a lightening stumping: MS Dhoni could turn a game on its head.
While history will remember MS Dhoni for his 3 ICC Tournament trophies, his teammates in that India dressing room will forever be grateful for the Oasis of calm he brought to their lives.