Cricketer-turned-commentator Anjum Chopra, also an ardent MS Dhoni fan, still finds the news of MS Dhoni's retirement hard to come to terms with. The Former Indian skipper bid farewell to international cricket through an Instagram post at “19:29 hours” on Saturday. Chopra has fond memories of the cricketer, from watching him on TV while in South Africa to talking retirement in London last year. A big fan, Chopra had requested Dhoni to “continue playing for India”, hoping to dissuade Captain Cool from any plans he might have had of hanging his boots. In his trademark composed manner, Dhoni reminded her that it (his career) has to end someday and promised to meet Chopra’s mother, an ardent fan, when in Delhi. “There’s still a silver lining,” Chopra mused, “at least he will play the IPL and we can watch Dhoni in action in some form of cricket, which is excellent!," she told Indiatvnews.com in an exclusive chat.
“He knew what he wanted and that is absolutely fair. He doesn't need to share his plans with the world. As long as he is clear about his plans and the people around him know about them, that’s all that matters. We as outsiders don't need to know,” Chopra said. She believed Dhoni might have played if the T20 World Cup happened (like most matches, it was postponed due to the pandemic). “I'm sure even the board (BCCI) would have expected him to make it to the Indian team had the IPL happened in time and then four months later, getting into the World T20 in Australia. I feel he would have been around,” she speculated.
Chopra said the last she met Dhoni was in 2019. “We were at a function for the Virat Kohli Foundation. It was a week or ten days before the tournament. I told him how big a fan my mother is of him and whenever Chennai is playing in Delhi for the IPL my parents are always there to watch the games. He told me, ‘If next time I am in Delhi, get her to meet me.’ Then I told him, ‘hope you are not hanging your boost here in England’. I could feel it and then I was informed by a common acquaintance that he is on the verge of retirement,” she said.
“As a younger player, all you dream about is to achieve the national colours. And once you achieve that, you want to continue playing for India. But to tell yourself that ‘I'm not going to play one fine day’ and to let go of that dream, it’s a tough call,” the cricketer explained. “Fact is, we don’t see Dhoni as someone retired…it feels strange,” she trailed off.
She recounted his career arc from the beginning when Dhoni’s reputation preceded him. World cricket seldom talks about Dhoni as a Test cricketer but a keen observer, Chopra, highlighted the impact he had on the Indian Test team as a batsman despite batting lower down the order in a lineup that comprised of some of the big names in the cricketing fraternity. “In Tests, he did not have a great defense but he could attack the ball so well. Imagine that batting order - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, then Dhoni walking in. And despite such big names, his impact was felt in the middle order. Keeping the captaincy aside, as a player itself he had such a great impact and has been such a big performer. And when you keep performing consistently, the stature in the dressing room keeps growing. Dhoni’s stature kept growing because of his consistent performance with the bat and with the gloves. He was widely acknowledged and respected,” she said. (ALSO READ: MS Dhoni would have played World T20 had it happened this year, feels childhood coach)
Like every fan, Chopra also has her assorted ‘Dhoni moments’. “The moment that he hit that massive hundred against Pakistan in 2005. I was in South Africa for the World Cup. I still remember I was in the gym on the treadmill and watched him on television hitting a hundred and celebrating in style. Kya lambe chakke maare the… superb. Another moment was the 2016 World T20 final against Bangladesh...that run-out. I was covering that match. It was a very tense moment,” she said.