I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed the brilliance of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
There were those T20-style ODI chases in Pakistan in 2006. Pervez Musharraf asked him not to shorten his mane, a rage all over India.
There was that fighting fourth-innings at Lord’s in 2007 when his 76* made sure India went to Trent Bridge on an equal footing, enroute to their first Test series win in England in 36 years.
There was the (calculated?) gamble in the 2007 World T20 final against Pakistan when he gave the ball to Jogi ahead of Harbhajan. The winning moment was a rare occasion when he expressed raw emotions on a cricket field. And the last time we’d see him in that mane.
There was the “attack is the best form of defence” philosophy against Ajantha Mendis in the ODI series in Sri Lanka 2008 when he led the way to ensure India won the first limited-overs series against their southern nemesis in a long time.
There was that 8-1 offside field to Michael Hussey in the Nagpur Test of 2008. Commentators said it was schoolboyish, Dhoni made it work.
There was the slash straight to deep point in the league stages of the 2009 World T20 when India’s title defence crumbled.
There was the charge to No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings in 2009.
There was that scathing assessment of his players (“they were playing to the galleries”) at Nagpur in the 2011 World Cup against South Africa as India lost despite a century from Sachin Tendulkar and a monstrous top-order performance.
There was that self-belief when he promoted himself to No. 4 in the WC final at Wankhede to counter Muralitharan’s off-spin. There was that six that sailed over widish long-on! Oh, that six! I still remember how the shop where we were watching the match erupted in delirium. I can bet 88.80% of India went bonkers at that moment (that’s his ODI strike-rate, in case..). Andy Zaltzmann exclaimed Dhoni must have balls of steel!
There was 0-8! Scarier and more depressing than any Hollywood horror or slasher classic. We watched in terror as the team stumbled from one low to another, losing 8 consecutive tests in England and Australia. The lowest point of his career, on-field!
There was the 1-2 Test series loss at home to England. The way Virat Kohli and co. mocked England before the series (“Aao in Angrezon ki pungi bajaayein!”) only to have rotten eggs on their faces on the last day at Jamtha, Nagpur.
There was that counterattacking demolition job in Chennai, his second home, in 2013. He tore into Nathan Lyon and co to make the highest score by an Indian Test captain. This from a person who didn’t have the correct technique for Test cricket. The Oz left the subcontinent blanked 0-4!
There was the IPL scandal in 2013!
It pained me no end when I saw him defending Gurunath Meiyappan (“he’s just an enthusiast”). I could let go the various away tests lost from winning positions, the Rhiti Sports controversy, the abandoned chase in Dominica etc. But this hurt deep! This was his lowest point, on- or off-field.
There was the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy win as he resurrected like only he could. Amid all the controversy, he took the team where no international captain has ever gone before or since – winning all three ICC trophies!
There was the grit and sheer bloody-mindedness in taking blow after blow on the body, innings after innings, at the crease in England 2014. He waged a lone battle as India frittered away a 1-0 series lead on traditional English pitches to lose 1-3. And there was the sordid Jadeja-Anderson affair!
There was the sudden announcement of Test retirement midway through the tour of Australia, via a BCCI press release. No lingering around to get to 100 Tests (he played 90!). Never one for emotions or fanfare.
There was that inspired charge to the semis of the 2015 WC when India bowled out all their opponents except in what turned out to be their final match.
There was that loss in Florida when he couldn’t take 7 runs off the last over of a T20 against Dwayne Bravo, the man who had learnt a lot of his craft from Dhoni himself.
There were innumerable matches when he took a seemingly-lost chase to the last over and bullied the bowler to secure the heist.
There were the times when he stood by the young players of his team despite their difficulties and ensured the seniors weren’t allowed to sit on their laurels. If Ravindra Jadeja is the World’s No. 2 bowler in Tests today, it is thanks to Dhoni who saw in him a test player. In a bowler experts said “threw darts.”
There were the stumpings and run-outs other keepers could only dream of. Sabbir Rehman’s stumping in the 2016 World T20 was the coolest ever. Period!
There were those quips and wisecracks from behind the stumps that had everyone in splits and on their toes.
There was the sheer workload that he bore while leading the team in all formats – captain, wicketkeeper, batsman – all the while running between the wickets faster than a hare!
I’m honoured and lucky that I could watch him play. Let’s cherish him till he keeps donning the India colours. He is the stuff of legends, the captain who was cooler than ice, the pyromancer who could decimate the best of yorkers with a helicopter shot.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, thank you for all the memories. We want more of the same, please!
Do share your thoughts on the post and your memories of Dhoni in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.