MS Dhoni: The man who turned dreams into reality

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, former Indian cricket captain who led Team India to victories in the ICC WT20 (2007), ICC World Cup (2011) and ICC Champions Trophy (2013),  announced his retirement from international cricket on August 15. Dhoni, who had retired from Test cricket at the end of 2014, last played for India in an international match in the semi-final loss to New Zealand in the 2019 ICC World Cup. He made his international debut in an ODI against Bangladesh in December 2004 and played his maiden Test match almost a year later against Sri Lanka in Chennai. He was part of the team that played India’s first-ever T20 international against South Africa in December 2006.
Dhoni’s international retirement was always on the cards. The wicket-keeper batsman had not played any competitive cricket match ever since India’s defeat to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Manchester.  But at 39, with his powers on the wane, and the ability to biff the ball almost at will not the same as before, Dhoni’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise. But the intimations of his cricket mortality weren’t loud. Until his last game, He was among the fittest in the team, the best available white-ball wicket-keeper by some distance, and a middle-order batting fulcrum whose presence held out hope even when the cause seemed utterly lost.
Dhoni has remained unbeaten in 84 ODIs, which is again a world record. The second best is by former South Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock, who has 72 not outs to his name. Dhoni also holds the record for inflicting the most number of stumpings in international cricket. In 350 matches, Dhoni has 123 stumpings to his name. He is also the only wicket-keeper to have inflicted 100 international stumpings in his career. In terms of total dismissals, Dhoni is behind South Africa’s Mark Boucher and Australia’s Adam Gilchrist.
If Sachin Tendulkar’s rise to stardom represented aspirational India in the post-1991 liberalization era, Dhoni’s rise represented a small-town revolution in Indian cricket that came in liberalization’s wake. Before him, it was still players from the big cricketing states and cities that dominated the game. Hailing from Jharkhand, Dhoni broke that mould and brought with him an unorthodox yet effective style. In that sense, Dhoni’s reign oversaw a transition in Indian cricket where the focus firmly shifted from classical style to substance, from trying to win to making winning an art form.
His winning six in the 2011 World Cup final will be cherished for generations to come. If Dhoni leaves behind a legacy it is that a brilliant cricketer can come from anywhere.
 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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