MS Dhoni Retirement Anniversary Special: He’ll Be Forgotten!

There’s often a fine line between surprise and shock. And not many possess the ability to tread this tightrope. Magicians can. Stuntmen can. Detectives can. And ‘MSD’ is the abbreviation if one clubs the initial alphabet of these three unorthodox jobs!

Call it a case of smart word-play, but MS Dhoni does possess traits that are a trademark of these men. He wears the wicket-keeping gloves, above that mysterious white pair, and spells magic from behind the stumps. He unleashes the whiplash bat-swing against the quicks, which is nothing short of a daring stunt. He is also a perfect candidate for every underground detective agency because of his tactical acumen and multi-fold thought process.

In addition to these professional similarities, MS Dhoni resembles them on a personal level as well. The real identities of these men aren’t always well-known. They are recognised only by the painted face or the low-grade protective gear or the camouflage deerstalker cap. Maybe that’s why they aren’t remembered for too long. The same might turn out to be the case for MS Dhoni as well. How little we know about the man who dons the iconic number 7 jersey, except for the fact that he loves retro bikes and old classical music!

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Their occasional appearance is another reason behind them fading away from the public eye. Magicians are canny enough to display their bag of tricks sporadically. Because of the occupational hazards involved, stuntmen can’t perform regularly either. And the less the detectives are spotted, the better it is for them. During off-seasons, MS Dhoni hibernates in the remote locations of Uttarakhand. Neither the glamour of high-profile parties nor the obligation of regular interactions with the PM can bring MS Dhoni out from his period of dormancy. Only a casual game of football can!

Another observation is that the roles of these men aren’t like that of protagonists in daily soap operas. It’s more like that of character artists in big summer movies. They enter the scene without a dramatic introduction, play their part to perfection and leave without a grand exit. Well, MS Dhoni’s international career panned out in a similar manner. Unlike child prodigies, there wasn’t much hype around MS Dhoni when he made his debut. Unlike the legends of the game, he retired in the most subtle way. The time frame between these two events hardly needs any description.

The decision of his retirement was neither spontaneous nor unexpected. He had made himself unavailable for national selections ever since the WC semi-final loss to New Zealand in 2019. However, there were hopes of him bidding adieu to international cricket only after the T20 WC (It was originally scheduled for October 2020 but the ICC postponed it by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic). Still, the timing, the enormity, the overwhelming public response to him calling it a day made it tough to skin in. Again, MS Dhoni’s fans and followers were caught in a situation that was surprising and shocking in equal proportions!

He has a knack for doing so. It’s a state which is in between these two emotions, a state which cannot be expressed in words. In the final of T20 WC ’07, Joginder had to bowl the last bowler. Harbhajan also had an over remaining, but it wasn’t simply his day. Dhoni took the obvious (and the audacious) option. What followed is unmatched even today!

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Similarly, the cricketing logic demanded Dhoni ahead of Yuvraj in the final of WC ’11. Yuvraj wasn’t well health-wise, his last innings was a duck. Murali and other offies like Dilshan and Randiv were slowly getting into their groove. Dhoni just responded to the match situation. And it yielded the desired result for him and for the 1.2 billion Indians too!

The above two decisions were anticipated. These weren’t unforeseen. However, the sight of Joginder juggling the ball or MS Dhoni walking down the stairs did take us aback. It slightly shocked us. It slightly surprised us. Pundits labelled him as an unconventional captain, someone who thought outside the box. In retrospect, he perhaps redefined the word ‘convention’ at least in the captaincy sense – To take that call which is ‘cricket’ wise safe and not ‘consequence’ wise.

There’s a famous adage in cricket that numbers don’t lie. Numbers portray, if at all, only the partial picture. Take, for example, Boucher who registered the most dismissals (555) in tests, his greatness, thus gratified. Sangakkara scored the most runs (thirteen thousand) as a wicket-keeper batsman in ODIs, his excellence, thus exhibited. Ponting won the maximum number of ICC trophies (4) as a captain, his distinction, thus demonstrated. Dhoni does feature in each of these charts. However, history barely remembers anyone except the number one. We can’t recall the name of the second man who landed on the moon, can we?

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Someone like MS Dhoni played the three most thankless roles in cricket, i.e., finisher, wicket-keeper and captain. Those boundaries scored when the match is practically over don’t get etched in the memory. Efforts taken to pluck out half-chances from nowhere aren’t appreciated. Marginal losses have no designated column in the win-loss record. For all the limelight, the adulation, the various other perks that come along with these roles, the weighing scale needle is always inclined to the other side filled with continuous trolling, regular scrutiny and the pressure of performing every single time. Dhoni played not just one but all three roles in unison for the major part of his career. Is there any stat that showcases this unique facet? No!

Dhoni added intangible value. Like, the song ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon’ got a fresh set of audience in the form of Gen Z. It’s difficult to track the blip in the YouTube views since the time of his retirement post on Instagram. However, the ‘top comments’ section seems to suggest a revival in this song’s life. Not that it was needed. With Amitabh Bachchan being the face of it, this musical masterpiece by Mukesh, Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianvi is immortal. Though, the Dhoni dimension added can’t be discounted either.

The materialistic development in Ranchi is there for everyone to see. The recently built infrastructures like the international stadium, the plush hotels, the airport do have an indirect propulsion because of MS Dhoni. But the more radical change took place in the mentality of people belonging to the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Today, any employee who hails from these states or for that matter, from any downtrodden part of India, doesn’t shy away from his roots while introducing himself to his MNC colleagues. How can one quantify this! 

Or in the cricket sense, the dip in the form of the pair ‘Kuldeep-Chahal’ is evident after the wicket-keeper who used to manoeuvre them wasn’t behind the stumps anymore. For hand-holding Virat during his tumultuous times or for imparting impetus to Rohit when his career graph had flattened, MS Dhoni deserves a fair commission from their ever-growing ‘run’ accounts. Again, there’s no number index that records such invaluable contributions. Sadly, the stories eventually die while the stats live long!

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On the personal front, there’s never much buzz surrounding MS Dhoni and Sakshi for they don’t fall into the ‘power-couple’ category. Ziva, their only daughter, also doesn’t engage the media to the hilt. Imagine if the couple had a son, the press would have profited extensively for decades to come by projecting parallels with Jr. Dhoni and Sr. Dhoni. Will he grow up to be a cricketer? Will he be a keeper-batsman or a bowler? Will his surname be influential in national selections or in IPL auctions? Limitless creative liberty needs no mention in such cases.  

Virat, the thorough professional that he is, precisely archives his daily happenings on social media. The one, who handed over the reins to him seems to be frugal in this facet. Dhoni has posted merely 107 times on Instagram while Virat has 1207 (more than ten times) so-called memories etched on the internet. Generation gap, maybe? Hundreds of years from now, the then cricket historians can easily reprise Virat’s life. The same can’t be said for MS Dhoni. He has a mainstream biopic made on him. Though, the focus shifted from the subject to the lead who portrayed him, for the reasons we all know!

And, lastly, his legacy is challenged time and again. It has now become a tradition of some ex-players during the first week of April every year to float irresponsible statements. These are aimed to belittle his individual efforts in the successful WC’11 campaign. When the build-up for any foreign tour starts, he is made the scapegoat for the embarrassing white-washes of 2011. The false accusations of fixing IPL matches also crop up on the mere mention of the CSK franchise. These are just a few of the many accusations. The complete charge sheet will be a topic for some other day.

In reality, the passing breeze does more good than harm to a burning candle for it makes the flame shine brighter. But the day comes, sooner or later, when every candle blows off!

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