An unusual name, long dyed hairs, and hitting the ball down the ground like a bull – this is my first memory of the man. I was 7 years old then; largely unaware of the game and its rules. I am 21 now. That image is a bit hazy, and I don’t remember the exact details associated with it. Numbers and figures slip away on the steep slope of memory, but feelings linger. I can still experience that feeling, an emotion which has stayed fresh with me. Words won’t just do, so I’ll not even try explaining.
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MS Dhoni was one of the fastest men between the wickets I’ve ever seen. It was almost superhuman-esque how quickly he completed his runs. However, he ran himself out both at the very start and end of his international career. The cricketing life of such a brilliant runner, spent between the 22 yards, fell short by a few inches both the times. That was life’s ironic but poetic sense of humour, reserved specially for a man known for his deadpan and wry humor in press conferences.
There is hardly anything left for him to achieve in cricket. He has everything that a cricketer can dream of. World Cups, Champions Trophy, IPL Trophies, ICC Best Player of the Year, Man of the Series and what not. He became the captain of the Indian team in the backdrop of its most embarrassing defeats in the 2007 world Cup. The dressing room environment was toxic. The team lacked belief. He took the responsibility of a very young team, and won the 2007 T20 world cup – the catalyst for the IPL and indirect influencer of the major T20 leagues all around the world.
He played alongside greats of the game – Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Ganguly, Kumble, Harbhajan, Yuvraj – and still managed to make his name and I daresay, outshine most of them. These legends only have good words and praise for him, as their captain. When the Cricketing God himself calls you the best captain he’s played under in his 24 years of Int’l cricket, there’s nothing more left to applaud.
I’ll not tell how unique his technique or how strong his bottom hand was. I’ll just remind you of his eyes, after hitting that world cup winning six at Wankhede. I’ll press you to note how he remained in the pose, turned his bat artistically in his hand, and continued looking at the ball. I’ll tell you how he only smiled when Yuvi came and embraced him like a grizzly bear. I’ll remind you of his smile when he hugged Sachin that night. And I’ll leave it there. Because it would be hard for me to tell where he was when the world cup trophy was presented to the champions. But he was there, standing in the corner and letting that moment be about Sachin and India, despite him being the hero that day. Sometimes your absence from your own party creates a bigger impact than your presence.
Dhoni since then was like the centre of a tornado for me – the world around him erupted, but he still remained, unaffected, unperturbed.
He played his cricket by staying true to his origins – a middle class boy from Ranchi. Like a middle class man spending wisely to run his home, he counted each delivery he had and ensured the win by staying there till the end. He changed the way cricket matches are finished and targets are chased. He revolutionised wicketkeeping, by focussing on practicality rather than a jarring technique which could slow him. He was unique, unconventional, and confident – the exact combination a boy from a small town needs to attain success at world level. He became the poster boy for the small town aspirations, and thus, assisted in the democratisation of cricket in India.
In a world where cricketers wait for farewell games and call press conferences to announce their retirement, he announced his by proclaiming on an Instagram post.
from 1929 hours consider me as Retired
That was it. That’s how the most successful captain and Wicketkeeper Batsman of India announced his retirement. He earned everything, and gave it away just like that – in a hastily written grammatically wrong single sentence. He didn’t care that his ‘f’ should be capital or the ‘R’ should be small.
However, Dhoni cared. A roughly made montage of pictures from his momentous accompanied the proclamation, as his favourite song – “Main Pal do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon” , played in the background. Listen to that song. Listen to every word of it. Dhoni’s story is there – laid out bare for the world to see and understand his enigma.
He called himself a momentary poet through that song, one whose existence is inconsequential. One that was preceded and succeeded by greats. In a world of nonentities fearing oblivion and running away from it, he understood that being scared of oblivion is like running on a treadmill – it will only cause exhaustion. If this is not living in the moment, I don’t know what is.
I have only gratitude for him, as any evaluation seems redundant. I think I understand the capabilities of the word Thank you today, as I have never used it with more emphasis.
Thank you Thala!
Dhoni is a state of inertia which has accompanied me at every stage of my life – from being a child, to being a teenager and now a soon to be college pass out. In all that was changing around me, Dhoni was a constant. Just like the inevitable transition to adulthood, I knew he’ll retire one day. But exactly like adulthood, I am not ready for it.
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