Irrespective of your love for cricket, if you reside in India and if you haven’t heard about the class of this man, there’s something wrong with you. Where does even one begin to sum up this gladiator. In a cricket crazy nation, he came out of nowhere and became our leader, our captain and our inspiration.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to every play the game. The list of accolades, as captain, wicketkeeper and batsman, just go on and on.
From a thrill-a-minute swashbuckler to a captain whose trademark is his calm, Dhoni has come a long way.
Roll back the clock when Dhoni’s batting was an unending fireworks display. Sparks flew all around, especially in the direction of midwicket. Dhoni walked out in Vishakhapatnam against Pakistan in 2005 with the strongest strut I’ve seen on a cricket field. A 183* against Sri Lanka after a bludgeoning 148 against Pakistan was surely some way to announce one’s arrival after having gotten run-out for a duck on his ODI debut. But there was more that this dream-chaser from Ranchi had in store in the years to come.
April 5, 2005 this young man known as MS Dhoni was going to change the face of Indian cricket forever. He was a revelation. A storm might have struck Pakistan that day but little did anyone know that it was this Ranchi boy’s calm that was going to envelop Indian cricket for the years to follow.
Just after the 2007 World Twenty20 final or thereabouts, though, Dhoni’s method changed. It turns out that the Borg impression in his stance held something of the future. late. But he stayed absolutely calm through all of it, at least on the outside.
He is still lightning between wickets. The undoing of the glove remains, and so do the other mannerisms. The focusing of the eyes has become more intense. Even now, that remains the only external indication of some form of stress. His keeping now is steady and effective, safe, not spectacular. The effort that goes into it is sometimes underestimated.
On that World Cup final night in Mumbai, he kept himself in check other than to put the odd bad ball away. A supremely confident, steadying hand, until the end was nigh. The massive, muscled six was a return to the old Dhoni, head indulging heart for a brief, lifting moment.
What stands out now is his extraordinary awareness of body, mind and situation. And confidence in his method.
In the years to come, through crescendoes and troughs, through praises and criticisms, through a tumult of emotions MSD grew; No. 1 test side, No.1 ODI side, the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the 2013 Champions Trophy.
There’s barely a trace of shiny black in those once flawless long tresses, there’s a myriad of grey in that beard, and the skin doesn’t seem as youthful as it did when he stepped in to dominate, a decade back. It takes some gall to captain a side with a billion expectations, and the burden shows. A 10-year tenure as a captain of the world’s most cricket-crazy country is not a task for the feeble hearted.
In July 2018, MS Dhoni became the first player ever to score 10k runs in One Day Internationals with an average above 50. Given that for a large part of his career, Dhoni has batted in the lower middle order, it is an incredible record. The first batsman to cross 10,000 runs with an average above 50.
Today when Mahendra Singh Dhoni turns 38, he stares right at the approaching horizon, the hair are less and grey, the body older and the skin wrinkled, but even today, a ball from the middle of his bat travels the maximum distance, and his sprints can give a 20-year-old youngster a run for his money.
You might argue about MS Dhoni’s unusual batting technique but the aesthetics of batting weren’t MS Dhoni’s USP, ever. He has always been that kid who struggles with cursive handwriting but writes the most prolific answers.
Dhoni is still orchestrating murders of the world’s best bowling attacks, still plundering mammoth sixes, still bringing the calm into chaos and chaos into calm and still serving his country even after retiring as a captain.
Here’s wishing a Happy Birthday to someone who has defied all that wanted to deter him from being a champion, to someone who didn’t always practice on lush green outfields and didn’t enjoy the luxuries of bigger cities. Happy birthday to the man who has written his own scripts, who has chased the most extraordinary dreams, a man who has lived the dream!
From a point of view of overall contribution to Indian cricket, though, the progression of Dhoni from the carefree, spontaneous incandescence of a small-town youngster to a cricketing Atlas who never shrugs is complete.
As the clock ticks by, we are all aware that sooner, you won’t be around the Indian dressing room. The 2019 World Cup finals is just 1 match away and the prospect of watching you lift that trophy once again would be a fairy tale end to an outstanding career. Also, we wish to hear that famous commentary “Dhoni finishes off in style, with a magnificent strike into the crowd!” on July 14 at the Home of cricket.
Once again, wishing you a very Happy Birthday – Champion!