Swashbuckling. Best finisher. Coolest Cat on the field. Calmest captain. These are some of the things that will never be said about another cricketer in at least our lifetime and perhaps in the same breath.
M.S. Dhoni decided to retire and he made that announcement on Independence Day—bit of a symbolic gesture as he sets himself free from the game of cricket and ventures onto something that only he knows. But his retirement should not be a surprise. This was, as the Italians say, coming from a mile away. But Dhoni retiring from the game of cricket is no small feat. You are witnessing the exit of a giant. A player who not only changed Indian cricket, but to some extent transformed world cricket as well. His mark is so indelible that no amount of centuries from a Virat Kohli can eclipse his contribution.
Let’s not stand on ceremony here, there have been captains who have torn through conservatism and conventionalism and turned the odds around, but Dhoni led by sheer grit and a naked sense of clairvoyance that was almost seer like. He was a cross between a crystal ball soothsayer and a technician like Floyd Mayweather, who ripped through the defences of his opponents psychologically. His calmness was so unnerving to his adversaries and teammates that at times they almost doubted their eventual victories despite being in dominant positions.
There is a cornucopia of examples that one can cite about what Dhoni achieved and it will not be much of a eulogy as his stats are just a click away. What is really nigh is his image as an individual who at some celestial level only focused on the game and literally embodied the grit to block everything out. Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan are some of the players who are known for their exceptional focus and saintly calm towards their sport. Dhoni has just added himself to that list, even more so after retirement.
ICC trophies, IPL titles, winning games abroad and his sensational style of leading his team is perhaps out there for all to hold on to and remember him by. The T20 World Cup win gave birth to the most lucrative format of the game, the IPL. It became a platform for the Board to source and field its best talents from. Dhoni galvanised that juggernaut through his charisma and intrepid on-field performances.
Dhoni, in all fairness, became the gothic hero who inspired a new generation of cricketers who dreamt big. He served as bridge to all those who wanted to come out of a small town and achieve the impossible. He also embodied a mythological hero or a superhero, who would turn the odds in your favour when the chips were down.
Despite all the accolades, he did not lose his connection with his roots. He always preferred to stay in Ranchi and always let his bat do the talking. Dhoni and his livewire attitude will be the stuff of legends. He will be missed on the field and perhaps some solace can be expected in case he comes back to the ground without a bat and with a mike.