It's not a rag to riches story, neither a one where someone was born with a silver spoon, it's a tale of how perseverance pays off, how somebody just stands out because of the way he/she is, the tenacity to hold on to an opportunity and make the most of it and the resolution to stand by a decision once made.
Sachin Tendulkar, an Indian cricketing god worshipped by millions. To his standards, no cricketer was close, Rahul Dravid may be an exception but he was never about the limelight. Sourav Ganguly, the prince of Kolkata, brought out the aggression while 1983 World Cup winner Kapil Dev, was the messiah at the time. But besides Tendulkar, there was no cricketer that actually stood out among mortals. Well, in years to come, a 'captain cool' did. He was no god, but his trophy cabinet speaks for itself making him a modern-day great. (Also Read | MS Dhoni calls it time but fans can still watch 'Thala' in IPL donning the CSK jersey)
Since making his debut in ODI cricket for the Indian national team on December 23, 2004, who knew that a spunky long-haired exuberant youth would go on to be a legend of the game, become the only captain to win the T20 World Cup, World Cup and a Champions Trophy, still pack power with the bat at the age of 38 and stumping reflexes like a bullet.
A 22-year old Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a poor start to his career despite breaking into the scene for being known for butchering since a young age. Right from playing for the Railways Ranji team to hammering bowlers in Kenya for India A, Dhoni was a must-have person at the time. He had a string of poor performances, but the selectors and then captain Sourav Ganguly persisted with him and gave him an extended run. Dhoni did return the favour when he put on an exhibition with some unflinching stroke play to slam a brutal unbeaten 148 against Pakistan, which was followed by undaunted unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur.
Taking over the Mantle
And just from there on, Dhoni made his mark. Known for his finishing skills, the real test was when he was made captain for the inaugural T20 World Cup. Being backed by senior cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni was anointed as the skipper after Rahul Dravid stepped down. After a disappointing exit from the 2007 WC, the expectations from the Indian team at the time wasn't much. But with a young troop, India romped to clinch the title, revolutionising T20 cricket in India. From there on, he was nicknamed 'Captain Cool'.
Following the T20 World Cup triumph, Dhoni was made ODI captain after Anil Kumble retired from Tests, MS was entrusted with the Test responsibility as well. But once he was captain, there was a change, which eventually became for the better. (Also Read | MS Dhoni – The Pioneer of India’s rise from the ashes of 2007 ODI World Cup debacle)
Once he took over the mantle, Dhoni had a golden run as captain but started to lose his touch with the bat slowly. From clearing boundary ropes with ease, Dhoni became an accumulated calculator, taking the game deep and then reacting whenever India needed a saviour. From a series of unbeaten Test runs since taking over as Test captain to leading them to the top of the Test points table for the very first time in Indian cricket. He garnered plenty of praise and the cherry on the top was the 2011 World Cup. He may have endured a poor run with the bat throughout the tournament but stepped up when it mattered, the 2011 World Cup finals against Sri Lanka. His unbeaten 91 and the World Cup-winning six! Hear the words which were echoed around whilst the nation's celebration.
'Dhoniiiii finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd. India lift the World Cup after 28 years. The party's started in the dressing room. And it’s an Indian captain, who’s been absolutely magnificent, in the night of the final,’ - Ravi Shastri on the commentary.
However, the World Cup glory could only last as long as India endured a poor run once again. 8 ODI matches losses in a row, England overtaking India as the No.1 Test team, Dhoni came under heavy scrutiny, leading a fatigued India side and a raw bowling unit.
Times were changing and so was the players from the squad. However, redemption knocked on the door after India whitewashed Australia in the Gavaskar-Border series, becoming the first team to clean sweep the Aussies in a Test series. That was followed by India winning the 2013 Champions League trophy, hence becoming the first captain to win the T20 World Cup (2007), World Cup (2011) and the Champions Trophy (2013).
Other than doning blue, Dhoni emerged as a leader in yellow for Indian Premier League franchise Chennai Super Kings.
Dhoni's run has been with some ups and downs, but despite the criticism, Dhoni was still calm and composed as he is. His Test captaincy came under the scanner and after a series loss in England. MS Dhoni announced that he was stepping down as Test captain and retired from Test cricket, citing excessive workload as the reason. But before stepping down, he did create an Indian squad in the making that we know today. Fitness, tenacity and a positive mind frame.
Dhoni led India to the 2015 World Cup semi-finals, but India were knocked out by hosts Australia. Dhoni did his best with the bat as well, but India fell. A few months fast forward, Dhoni stepped down as captain, paving way for Virat Kohli. He decided to play with freedom and act as the senior played in limited-overs cricket.
From his chicanery behind the stumps, to constantly instructing and advising bowlers to help Virat Kohli in his captaincy, Dhoni was the senior figure a young fiery Indian squad needed. He may not be able to make the bat talk much, but his role is as pinitol as it has ever been. He does captain CSK and has led them to three trophies (2010, 2011 & 2018).
(August 15, 2020)
In his own way, MS Dhoni is not a person who grabs the limelight, his actions on the field and his trophy cabinet define him, a status which actually defines a demigod.