Having salvaged the situation for India at the MCG, what happened in the end is something that no one would have expected. For us, it was surely shocking news, more of a disbelief. With the end of the test match at MCG, we saw closed curtains for Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the five-day format of the game.
Was it sheer pressure, or the timing was planned is something that only MSD can tell us. With recent debacle of the team in test format, and more so, in the overseas matches, India lost on 15 counts, two drawn matches and only one victory to boast about.
Starting as a small town basher, the guy went on to become one of the most successful Indian Cricket Captain. He placed India at the top in all the three formats of the game, winning the T20 and ODI world cups, and also getting India ranked at Numero Uno in the ICC Test Rankings. A goodish wicketkeeper (wouldn’t call him one of the best), a very aggressive batsman, when he gets in, and a very astute, and attacking leader, for most of his career (He appeared a bit lackluster due to loss of motivation probably, towards the fag end of his Test Captaincy career).
Coming from the Steel City of Ranchi, MSD was like any other School kid, wanting to play sport, rather than studying. He had to get working as early as the age of 19, when he got recruited in the Indian Railways as a Ticket Checker, but kept playing the sport he loved. Our earliest remembrance of Dhoni was a double century partnership of his with Shikhar Dhawan against Pakistan, in 2005-6 and both were slaughtering the hapless attack going hammers and tongs. He didn’t change this style of batting all through his career. Just backed himself, and let it go. A few innings of his “attack is the best defense” approach which come to our mind are, a couple of 90s he scored in England, his top score innings of 224 against Australia, and his batting in the last series in England. In all these situations, he looked by far the best batsman in the Indian batting line up. Explosive batting, out of the book Technique and strokes employed, and refusing to get bogged down, had been his forte all his career.
As a wicketkeeper, he never had the best technique, had hard hands, but made up for it by his cat like reflexes. He did drop a few catches, but has still ended up having the maximum dismissals in test cricket by an Indian Wicketkeeper. He did prove it here too, that not going by the book, isn’t always wrong!
As a captain, we would rate Dhoni as inspiratory. He never appeared to be agitated, irritated, or never did his shoulders sag in adversity. Dropped catches, bad batting displays, typically Indian bowling woes overseas, nothing could ruffle his feathers anytime when on the field. He looked like a tower of peace, notwithstanding what was going on around him. That doesn’t mean that he was off guard or unaware of his job. He did it well, most of the time. He gambled quite a lot, and also had the guts to back himself in tough situations. More often than not, he was also able to inspire his players to rise to the occasion. It is not so easy to captain a team which has a Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Kumble in it, but MSD did this with consummate ease, and to a very good effect. He didn’t like criticisms. He kept backing players like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, though they were not always consistent performers, and could extract flashes of brilliance from them, nurtured Virat Kohli’s potential, and also the senior players were not far behind in contributing.
People who go by stats, forget that by changing or sacking or blaming a captain, they are doing no good to the game or to the team more so in case of Dhoni. 9 years back , MSD made his test debut for India against Sri Lanka on 2nd December 2005.Seldom did he know that one day he would lead India in all formats of the game and become a successful captain ever. But one thing he did, was he had a dream and had a belief in him to achieve it. With years passing by, he achieved one dream after the other and set a benchmark that are difficult to surpass.
As the year comes towards the fag end, Dhoni has decided to quit Test Match format and that will surely have lot of impact in the entire cricketing fraternity with the kind of leadership determination, and success he has lead the team all these years.
What is the legacy MSD leaves behind then?
1. Back your instincts, and go all out
2. Keep your restlessness in your mind. Once it reflects in the body language, your team panics, and your opposition senses an opportunity.
3. Back your decisions and stand by them
4. Don’t pay heed to criticisms
Finally it was a typical MSD type cool Signoff.In a flash.No farewells,and no emotional speeches!
With the baton passed on to Virat Kohli, who is yet another example of a good leader, we hope he will be able to fill in the big shoes of the cricketer we love and admire- Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Credits to Sanjeev Sathe for sharing his views and thoughts, who himself,is a class batsman and an ardent cricket fan.