By Pratik Sagar
Sourav Ganguly is widely credited with changing the face of Indian cricket. While that is a proven fact, the reason why Sachin Tendulkar refers to Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the greatest skipper he played under and the reason for Virat Kohli calling him ‘My Captain’ is because this person from Ranchi took Ganguly’s learnings and combined it with his own knowledge and rewrote the history books.
On Tuesday, Dhoni added a few more white hair to his beard and his fans added another candle to the cake as the nation celebrated his 39th birthday. At this age, cricketers are usually thinking about moving on from the game, try their hands at commentary or earning their coaching badges. But Dhoni is a bit different, just like how his career turned out to be. He is helping his critics earn their bread by constantly speculating over his future with the national team.
The reason why talking about Dhoni’s future is futile is because there is no one in this world who can guess what’s going on inside the calm head of his. Remember that Australia tour of 2014, when he hung up his Test boots mid-way through the series and handed over the armband of Kohli? Similarly, it was a sudden mail at ( p.m. from BCCI in 2017 to announce that he has stepped down as limited-overs captain.
So, it’s not about the role for him but the feeling of what is best for Indian cricket that keeps him going. And that feeling might still be burning inside his heart and could be that he is still hanging around the ODI and T20I teams because he knows Kohli may still need him behind the stumps if the youngsters are not able to fill his boots going into the next T20 World Cup which now looks to be the one which will be played in India in 2021.
Dinesh Karthik has been tried, Rishabh Pant has been given a long rope and now K.L. Rahul has been working on his keeping skills as the Indian team looks to move on from the Dhoni era. There have been contenders for the hotseat but the full package that teammates and fans are accustomed to behind the stumps still seems to be missing.
Due to his leadership skills it’s easy to forget that Dhoni is also one of the few batsmen in the world to have scaled Mount 10k in ODIs — no mean feat for someone who played the role of a finisher all his life. But more than his runs, Dhoni’s tactical acumen is what Kohli needs. Runs, Kohli knows that he can score bucket loads himself, but the masterplans that MSD used to devise for the bowlers for certain batsmen, you just can’t put a price on that. After all, you cannot buy experience in the market.
When Dhoni indeed walks into the sunset, it won’t be a festival-like goodbye that’s for sure. He will just walk away as if he wasn’t there at all. But the legacy that he will leave behind will be a gargantuan task for anyone to replicate or even follow.
He won’t be remembered for handing over the last over to Joginder Sharma in a T20 World Cup final. He won’t be remembered for his World Cup-winning six off Nuwan Kulasekara. He won’t be remembered for jumping in ecstasy after leading the team to the prestigious white jacket in England in the Champions Trophy. He will be simply remembered as a young bloke who broke into the team as a 23-year-old and gave a lifetime of memories, including the now-famous helicopter shot, to more than a billion people to cherish for the rest of their lives. Happy Birthay Our Captain.