A word MS Dhoni often used in the last days of his captaincy was ‘process.’ He unapologetically called for a better process irrespective of what the results would be in the short run.
If your friends were to tell you that India’s most subdued and introvert cricketer of the present times will announce the biggest decision of his playing career on Instagram, you would have laughed. Take this for irony — a person who bottled his feelings to such an extent that he simply called the World Cup 2011 victory – ‘good’ — announced an end to his International career on Instagram, an app that is an epitome of exuberance and flamboyance (in character).
1.2 million ‘likes’ on a 4-minute-long video within an hour of it being uploaded bears testament to the love Indians have for him in their hearts. The manner in which he conducted himself both on and off the field, and how he got things done without even breaking a sweat and making a fuss simply stand out. In a world where cricketers call press conferences to rule out murmurs of their retirement, MS Dhoni’s act of announcing his decision on Instagram outlined his nature of being casual, (at least in his expressions), about the things that mattered. Retirement is a major decision for any cricketer/sportsperson, let alone a player whose participation in any future tournament can easily make headlines. In this context, Dhoni’s Instagram post showed that he never made any moment larger than what it was, and heavier than what its impacts could be.
What are the magnificent moments of MS Dhoni’s playing days? In a career that spanned through times when India was knocked out of the world cup after suffering a defeat in the hands of Bangladesh, to a triumphant six in the 2011 final that ended the wait of a billion Indians, Dhoni — the player and also the captain, experienced it all. If we were to assess MS Dhoni on the basis of his substance, he wouldn’t be categorised as either Metal or Nonmetal. Instead, he would be classified as an ‘alloy’ that has a mix of everything. A mixture of triumph for the team and himself, some whitewashes, crushing defeats, and wins while coming from behind in matches where all seemed lost.
MS Dhoni, whom the world knows as a captain who never expresses anything on the field and does not take cricket as anything more than a game, proved many people wrong. The video he put out with the message debunked something very important about him as a person. As usual, every picture that was taken in the video collage had a message and a fitting corresponding line from the song. Some parts of the video emphasized that some moments may have affected him personally and he could have opted to not pick those moments which had affected him or hurt him. After all, the video was supposed to be a review of his career made by none other than him.
But, what did he do? He opted to select such moments in his video. Specifically, the photograph of fans burning his effigy after a series of poor performances and India’s early exit from the world cup in 2007 throw some light on MS Dhoni’s ways of looking at things that did not go as per his plans. He also picked photographs of the times which were arguably his toughest years on the cricket field when India was on a losing streak against England in 2011.
Those images in the video reaffirmed two well-established facts about him that he is honest about himself and, though affected, he does not express anything. The latter is important because although he did not express anything and the fact that those moments had affected him personally, speak volumes about his mental strength. The video showed that he cared, he cared for everything that mattered, but he also had the capacity to accept the truth of those moments and did not repudiate.
Dhoni has been a master at dropping subtle hints and the video was nothing different. Picking moments with most legends of Indian cricket that he played with, Dhoni quashed a long-time allegation that he did not value them enough.
Ask players who played under his captaincy, they would say that the best thing about being Dhoni, was that he allowed players to find their feet and allowed them space to flourish and earn a name for themselves. On the other hand, players who were well-established knew that his interference (as a captain) in their game would be negligible and that gave them the freedom to play freely. The performance levels of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan during the period leading up to the World Cup in 2011 bear testament to it.
A word MS Dhoni often used in the last days of his captaincy was ‘process.’ He unapologetically called for a better process irrespective of what the results would be in the short run. It led to critics slamming him for looking too far ahead and losing sight of the present, but the dominance India has shown over the years after MS Dhoni gave up captaincy underlined the role he played in shaping Team India’s future.
When he hit the final six on the night of the ICC World Cup 2011 final, he twirled his bat, jumped with joy alongwith Yuvraj Singh (who also features in his retirement video) and likewise when James Tredwell failed to hit R Ashwin for a six on the last ball of the 2013 Champions Trophy he jumped with childish exuberance. Rare expressions of such emotions on the field and not giving away even an iota of it before the culmination of the actual act established that he was no less passionate about the game and victories than anyone else, but he, for sure, was not desperate for it.
For many, MS Dhoni is not just a cricketer who played for India and captained the team so successfuly. Instead, he is a symbol of possibilities for young boys from small cities who dare to dream big. It tells them that aspiring to achieve something big is not a sin, and, destiny permitting, their immense passion, and hunger for success alone will decide how much they achieve in life.
(Some) people may still argue about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s run as the captain of the Indian cricket team, and throw shade at the manner in which his stint with Team India ended (Semi Final, 2019 World Cup), but his influence on the current and upcoming crop of Indian cricketers and on the history of Indian cricket as a whole, will forever remain unquestioned.