Dhoni — as undemonstrative as he can be

Dhoni's decision to step down as India's limited-overs captain came as a shock to fans. It was similar when he announced in the midst of the series against Australia in 2014 that he was quitting as captain and player of the Indian Test team. He can walk away from it all in a very understated, unattached manner.

A file picture of M. S. Dhoni.   -  AP

Nobody can comprehend M. S. Dhoni’s mind. His exterior too doesn’t reveal much.

Rewind to December 30, 2014. The third Test between India and Australia at the iconic MCG had just concluded. Even as Dhoni entered the press conference room, a couple of journalists walked up to congratulate the India captain for his fighting 39-ball unbeaten 24 that enabled India salvage a draw on a scarred fifth-day pitch.

With just the Sydney Test remaining in the four-match series, Australia’s 2-0 lead had already secured the rubber for the host.

Yet, some pride had been salvaged at the MCG by denying the Aussies another victory and the India captain appeared in good spirits when he took questions.

And many of his answers were laced with humour. Asked why Australia chose not to bowl the final four overs — India was six wickets down — Dhoni quipped, “Maybe they [the Australians] were too tired to bowl those four overs. That’s a very Aussie answer I have given you!”

Dhoni even answered questions that were looking forward to the upcoming Test in Sydney. And when he spoke in a lighter vein, there was laughter in the room.

All through this media session, a storm must have been sweeping through his mind in an emotionally gut-wrenching moment. At that point in time, only Dhoni knew this would be his last press conference as the India Test captain. Nobody else had a clue.

There was nothing that could be picked up from his body language either. Nothing, that even remotely hinted at a shock retirement from the longest format of the game.

After his time with the media, Dhoni, it was learnt later, called up the then BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel to announce his retirement from Test cricket. Then, he broke the news to his devastated teammates; some of them could not hold back their tears. Yes, even Dhoni’s own men did not know what was coming.

And even as the correspondents were busy typing out reports, came the BCCI mail that said Dhoni had retired as captain and player from Test cricket to focus on ODI and Twenty20 cricket. At first, some of us thought that the mail was a ‘hoax.’ Only then, the reality of it all sunk in.

Indeed Dhoni had put in a masterclass performance during his post-match interaction with the media in masking his emotions.

Whether it was right for him to quit as captain and player when a Test remained in the series can be debated upon.

But then, Dhoni does have a penchant for announcements such as these. He can walk away from it all in a very understated, unattached manner.