M.S. Dhoni - far more than numbers and records

Captain, bowlers and those batting in the company of Dhoni have all praised the man’s astute reading of the game in the middle.

India wicketkeeper-batsman M.S. Dhoni takes guard at his hometown, Ranchi, in the third ODI against Australia.   -  PTI

 

Has the decision to rest Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the last two one-dayers of the ongoing India-Australia series inadvertently ended the former captain’s international career at home?

Indications are, Dhoni would retire from international cricket after the World Cup this summer. No doubt, possibility exists that he could well choose his time to take the final bow and opt for at least two years of military training.

Dhoni is not the man to linger on. Moreover, he has no apparent reason to stay motivated to stretch a glorious international career past his 38th birthday this July. Fitter than most other members of the team — clearly the best, when it comes to judge and run a single or a couple — Dhoni won’t have much to look for beyond the World Cup.

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Should India regain the Cup, Dhoni would retire on a high. In case, India falls short, Dhoni can exit the world stage with the grace befitting a champion cricketer.

No doubt, Dhoni would have loved to see his last appearance in Ranchi end on a winning note. On the brighter side, the “finisher” has the satisfaction of playing his last international game, at home, in a city where it all started.

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What Dhoni brings to the field is far more than what gets reflected by numbers, records or detailed statistics.

In fact, on Sunday night in Mohali, when the Indian bowling was under the pump, many must have missed Dhoni’s calming presence. The bowlers, especially the spinners, appeared clueless, partly because Dhoni’s “guidance” from behind the stumps was missing.

Captain, bowlers and those batting in the company of Dhoni have all praised the man’s astute reading of the game in the middle. In the Indian dressing room, if the DRS stands for “Dhoni Review System,” it is not without reason.

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Without Dhoni’s pro-active approval, Kohli is not known to go for television referral. In Kohli’s words, “I don’t think I’ve come across a better cricketing brain just in terms of planning and knowing what’s happening in the game and what can be done. Sometimes I like to follow my own instinct as well but whenever I ask him anything 8 or 9 out of 10 times, Dhoni always tells you things that work. So it’s a blessing to have him.”

Rohit Sharma has gone on record saying Dhoni’s decision to make him open the innings in ODIs, in 2013, was “career-changing”. The vice-captain went on, “I became a better batsman after that. In fact, it helped me understand my game better, react better according to situations.”

M.S. Dhoni and Rohit Sharma in a candid conversation after a game.   -  FILE PHOTO/AKHILESH KUMAR

 

Others like Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Kedar Jadhav, among many, have all spoken of Dhoni’s contribution in their moment of success.

Clearly, Dhoni has set the bar far too high for young apprentices like Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and K. S. Bharat.

With Dhoni not expected to be keen to part of any series, home or away, post the ensuing World Cup, fans are sure to watch every outing of this great cricketer in the IPL with enhanced emotions.

Come the World Cup, in all probability, Dhoni will make his last appearance as the ‘Man in Blue’ and take a bow. For a wicketkeeper to make a ‘360-degree impact’ on Indian cricket and cricketers, Dhoni surely had special abilities. It will be tough to find a parallel to this ‘small-town’ boy’s lasting legacy.

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