Mahendra Singh Dhoni: The quintessential skipper with the midas touch
It is the end of an era as flamboyant Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his decision to step down as the skipper of the Indian ODI and T20 teams. Taking over the reins of the team after Indian batting legend Rahul Dravid decided to step down in 2007, MSD led India to some fantastic and memorable wins.
Cool, unflappable and hardly showing any emotion on the field, MSD led by example in his inimitable way.
When the team won, he was satisfied and happy; and when things did not go well, he was calm and took defeats under his stride and moved on.
Mahi was aggressive and determined as any other cricketer, but did not need to take off his shirt to prove that he is aggressive on the field. He was the ‘Captain Cool’ and skipper with a midas touch.
He broke the notion with his spectacular success as a cricketer that a player from a small town cannot make it big on the cricketing arena and become a legend. This is his biggest and phenomenal achievement. He single-handedly put Ranchi and Jharkhand on the cricketing map.
Team India prospered under his astute captaincy. India became number one in all formats of the game under his tenure. The T20 World Cup in 2007, the CB series win Australia in 2008, the ICC World Cup in India 2011 and the 2013 Champions Trophy are some memorable wins under his belt.
Though his batting technique did not find applause from the sticklers of tradition, he was effective and devastating, nevertheless. He could change the complexion of the game single-handedly and power his side to the win.
He was aptly called a fantastic finisher. Arguably, the greatest finisher as far as Indian cricket is concerned. He displayed his cool match-winning knocks umpteen number of time for Team India and for his Indian Premier League team Chennai Super Kings.
He is nicknamed a finisher due to his ability to excel in crunch situations but off- late failures in some ODIs and T20 matches have raised questions and given critics cannon fodder to assume that his consistency as a finisher is on the wane now .
The other plus point for MSD’s success was his fitness regimen. He is one of the fittest players around . He has the power shoulders and legs that make him one of the best runners in the middle. It has been a sheer joy to watch him in the middle. MSD signature has been the helicopter shot. But perhaps the shot for which Mahi will be always remembered will be that towering six off Sri Lankan seamer Nuwan Kulasekara to help India clinch the 2011 ICC World Cup at Wankhede, Mumbai, against Sri Lanka and thereby ending India’s 28 year-old WC jinx.
Ever since the rise of Delhi batsman and superstar Virat Kohli and his astonishing success as Test skipper, there were clarion calls for MSD to step aside as the skipper of ODI and T20 teams. He perhaps knew that Team India is now Virat’s team. So, he was just delaying the inevitable. And hence moved on.
Moreover, it was certainly not easy for him as as practically after every loss, he was under the scanner from the eager and TRP-driven media and former skipper Sourav Ganguly to take a call on his T20 and ODI career.
Moreover, MSD has the habit of springing surprises, be it on the field and off the field. He surprised all by quitting Tests in the middle of the series against Australia in 2014-15 ( critics and former greats questioned his Test match ability and lack of success abroad ) and now has surprised all by stepping aside as skipper of the T20 and ODI teams, just 11 days ahead of the England ODI series.
In his personal life too, MSD (as a matter of fact before taking the wedding plunge, being a shy and private person was perhaps a bit uncomfortable for being linked with Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone for a while) had surprised all by quietly going ahead and marrying Sakshi Rawat. The couple now have lovely daughter Ziva. And MSD, when he is not playing cricket, is happy playing the role of doting father.
Though MSD has made himself available for the selection for the England series, intends to play Champions Trophy later this year and hopes to play in the 2019 World Cup. It remains to be seen how he moves on in the last stages of a truly glorious cricketing career.
It has to be kept in mind that playing under someone after stepping down as skipper is not that easy as far as Indian cricket is concerned. Mohammad Azharuddin did not feel easy to play under Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly was reluctant to play under Rahul Dravid. So the question is how Dhoni will play under Virat Kohli?
The rapport as of now looks perfect. But once the action begins and in case MSD is short of runs, one never knows what the future holds. This is the future. But nevertheless, let us for the time being stand up and salute Mahi for the wonderful memories he has given us as ODI and T20 skipper and for making us all proud.