Sports, perhaps, is one of the few forms of arts which renders the concept of godfathers fruitless. Even in a country like India, where a definite pull is often necessary to climb up in the ranks, sports has remained one of those fields which has, to a significant extent, remained untouched of it, even when many deem it necessary. In all probability, much of the concept finds its base in the fact that the small, regional confines of this country harbour a thousand dreams devoid of resources. The domestic responsibilities are often so excruciating, burdensome and more importantly, sudden, that to dream would almost be categorized as inhumane towards one’s family.
In such harsh realities, a story of a boy emerging from the struggles of an Indian lower-middle class to become an ambassador for his state, the nation, and the sport itself, almost seems like a novel of modern Indian fiction. Such is the story of MS Dhoni, whose struggles make him ever-more greater than the countless heroic acts he has performed in the Indian colours.
Dhoni rose from the confines of a place which had little to brag when it came to its contribution towards the sporting world. However, when he arrived at the scene, he became an almost instant phenomenon. Today, the international cricket fraternity recognises his home city - Ranchi, as the place of MS Dhoni. Heck, West Indian cricketer Dwayne Bravo even wrote a song on Dhoni, recognising his home city in one of the lines.
Dhoni led a country which is passionate and highly opinionated about its cricket. Roughly a billion eyeballs applauded, analysed and scrutinized every move he made. On the field, however, the fanfare was received by an equally calming presence of Dhoni the captain, and Dhoni the batsman. It was almost as if he had this utter disregard for the situation - at least in his demeanour, which became weirdly reassuring with time.
MS Dhoni on Instagram: Consider me retired from 19:29 👀 pic.twitter.com/ZEgJL82x3h— ICC (@ICC) August 15, 2020
He seemed the single constant in the otherwise chaotic, ever-changing world - with a thud to the handle, a little adjustment to the left eye and a swing of the elbow, he would take the guard and resume the use of his superpower - the ability to shut everything else all down and go on with his business.
Again, and again, and again, and again. For 350 ODIs, 90 Tests, 98 T20Is to be precise.
It all ends today.
On August 15, MS Dhoni called time on a stellar international career. There was shock at the sudden announcement, but a large part of the Indian fan-base had reluctantly made peace with the fact that Dhoni is unlikely to ever step out in Indian colours again. The wishes on his international retirement have been pouring in from all corners of the world. For fans and cricketers across the globe, MS Dhoni is one of the greatest captains, greatest hitters and greatest limited-overs batsmen to ever grace the game. For Indians, he is all and above it all, too. He is the revered 'Thala' - the leader.
Dhoni began his international career with a series of disappointing outings in Bangladesh. However, he finally made a blockbuster announcement to his arrival in international cricket with a 148-run innings against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam.
He batted as a man possessed throughout the innings - a man solely focused on deriving satisfaction from proving his doubters wrong. With time, he gained maturity but the aggressiveness in Dhoni's batting style became more prominent. In the same year, he slammed a terrific 183* against Sri Lanka in Jaipur -- his highest individual score in ODI cricket.
In 2007, after a poor outing in the ODI World Cup, MS Dhoni was named the captain of the Indian team ahead of the T20 World Cup. The responsibility was huge -- Dhoni himself recalled the outrage among fans after the failure in the ODI World Cup.
"... you know, media cars around us with their cameras and the big lights on top, it felt as if we had committed a big crime, maybe like a murderer or terrorist or something. We were actually chased by them," Dhoni had said.
The aggression was eventually put to good use as Dhoni, in the same year, brought the Indian cricket team redemption with a stunning victory in the inaugural T20 World Cup. After the senior Indian cricketers voluntarily decided to withdraw from the tournament, Dhoni's young brigade defied the odds to emerge as the world champions, beating more experienced T20I sides like Australia, South Africa and England along the way before defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final.
The T20 World Cup also marked the beginning of a successful chapter for Dhoni and Indian cricket, which would complete its fairytale finish in 2013.
After leading India to further glory in the longest format of the game -- securing the world no.1 rank in Tests, it was time for the 2011 World Cup - 'Time for Redemption', as many called it. While few eyes were indeed on improving the wrongs of 2007, major focus was on MS Dhoni's idol in his formative years -- Sachin Tendulkar.
It was Tendulkar's final World Cup -- and what better place to lift the trophy than his home?
The onus was on Dhoni to deliver Sachin Tendulkar the one untouched piece of silvervare in his trophy cabinet - the ODI World Cup.
The 2011 World Cup is, perhaps, one of the most cherished memories for Indian cricket fans across the globe for this reason. Poetically, it was indeed Dhoni who finished things off in style to fulfil Tendulkar's dream. The Indian captain not only ended Australia's incredible domination in the tournament but also played a crucial role in the final which almost seemed lost when the celebrated duo of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed early in the chase.
Dhoni finishes off in style!— ICC (@ICC) August 15, 2020
He has retired from international cricket 16 years after making his debut 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/1e5ymqhd4O
After poor outings with the bat throughout the tournament, Dhoni surprised many when he came out to bat after the fall of third wicket -- exchanging the number-five position with in-form all-rounder Yuvraj Singh.
Dhoni remained unbeaten on 91, forging a match-winning partnership with Gautam Gambhir which eventually led India to a six-wicket victory against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium - Tendulkar's home ground. MS Dhoni finally fulfilled the dream of his childhood idol.
After 538 international matches, over 17,000 runs, and all the three ICC trophies in the cabinet, Dhoni has finally hung his boots in international cricket. But the legacy he leaves will remain an integral part of Indian cricket for generations to come. Dhoni has inspired the masses to dream big and not fear the failure -- to embrace success but not stopping at it. And this, perhaps, will be the biggest lesson for not only the upcoming cricketers, but people across all fields and walks of life.