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Saluting The Legend - A tribute to MS Dhoni
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Saluting The Legend - A tribute to MS Dhoni

In 2005, Sachin Tendulkar nicks behind to Chaminda Vaas in the first over in Jaipur, chasing 299. In walks MS Dhoni and spanks two sixes over cover in the next two overs, marauding his way to an unbeaten 183 off 145 balls, the highest ODI score by a wicketkeeper.


In 2006 he cakewalks through to wins from required rates of 8 and above along with Yuvraj Singh, long before the breakneck speed of T20 batting has become the norm. 219 runs in five innings, getting out just once and striking at 137 runs per 100 balls.


His technique is nowhere in sight of orthodoxy. His hitting borders on the reckless. In the tradition of conformity and propriety that was Indian cricket, he is an agent of blasphemy. But his blasphemy works.


India had always had batsmen. India had never had this.



He becomes more the immovable object than the unstoppable force, a rock in the middle order, stealing singles to climb up to 40-odd runs before you know it. Unstrapping and strapping his gloves, opening his shoulders up, and unfurling that powerful square back lift to smatter the ball. Sometimes he walks in early and silently massages the pressure out. Sometimes he takes the chase till the end, reducing it to the game of chance, and then bats out seemingly impossible victories. All the while smoking a few helicopter shots along the way.


India had always had batsmen. India had never had this.


He started out as a goalkeeper, and played cricket on a coach’s insistence. Among those who were near the national team, his technique with the gloves was consistently labelled the most pedestrian. He collected the ball beside his body. The purists would turn their noses away. Adam Gilchrist was a star, but we were still in the epoch that wanted keepers to be keepers and not batsmen.


In 2016, they say, with wonderment, how he has no ‘give’. Time is wasted by the conventional, in going back, and then coming towards the stumps. Dhoni takes his hands towards the ball even while collecting, softening his hands to soften the blow. What is a speed breaker to other stumpers is a minor bump on the stumping highway to Dhoni.



This defiance of physics births the most unbelievable stumpings, ones that TV frames have issues discerning. Ricky Ponting is stumped by him off Irfan Pathan, driving on the front foot, his back foot on the line. Nine years later, Sabbir Rahman shimmies off balance for less than a second, the ball having passed with him inside the crease, and the bails are off. In between, there are enough flash stumpings to make top-ten-list YouTube videos. Gone are the days when getting stumped out meant having pranced down the track. With Dhoni in wait, playing with a stretched front foot is dangerous enough. And this is a man who almost never practices keeping.


India had always had keepers. India had never had this.


Whether it be a flash throw from square that hits the stumps and runs out Paul Collingwood, or him moving towards the throw and flicking it between the legs to catch Mushfiqur Rahim short, Dhoni’s mastery at the stumps defies conventional logic. The coaches drive in that the collector of a throw must stand behind the stumps. To Dhoni, that is a waste of time, again. And again his quirkiness works.


He fools the incoming Mitchell Marsh that the throw isn’t coming in to get him out at the last moment, and a year later, he doesn’t throw but breaks the stumps on the run to win against Bangladesh. In the IPL, he stretches his leg out at an unprecedented right angle to stop a late cut.


" There is much to be written about Dhoni, from statistical analysis to critiquing his recent struggles. This, however, is not that. This, is a reminder of how he was an anomaly that worked. How his gorgeous heresy seals him a unique place in the pantheon of cricketing gods. A reminder of what he actually means "

The man who was given no chance as keeper. The man who has now redefined paradigms, and raised the bar for everyone to aspire to. It’s his cocktail of the unconventionally effective and the street-smartly aware that makes him the glovesman he is. He doesn’t know the theory of the rulebook. And he writes a better one without it. His keeping is like his batting. Lucid, pressureless, iconoclastic and legendary.


India had always had keepers. India had never had this.



Being a captain is two jobs. Being one in the subcontinent is closer to five.


This fearless young keeper is handed the reigns of a young side for a hit-and-giggle World Cup no one in India is taking seriously. Against Pakistan in the league stage, it comes to a tie. Almost no one has thought of this. Except for Dhoni, who makes his team practice bowl-outs from time to time. He ignores his pacers, and hands the ball to Uthappa and Sehwag. They had been the best in practice. Along with Harbhajan, they hit. And India have won. In the final, he entrusts little-known Joginder Sharma with 13 runs. And he wins. The old adage is perhaps true. Fortune does favour the brave.


A year later in Australia, he backs his young team to upend the hosts. He has the spine to rotate Sehwag and Tendulkar in and out of the side. He needs a fit fielding unit, in step with the modern game. India win the triangular Down Under. He stands on the periphery as him team collects the trophy, handing it to the youngsters.


India had always had captains. India had never had this.


In 2015, as a veteran who can pick and choose the series he plays, he leads youngsters in Zimbabwe, playing video games and sharing chicken and naan with them, enriching them with an indelible experience early in their careers.


He develops a cocoon that keeps him and his team safe and sane. His press conferences are full of cryptic witticisms that offer no clickbait and no sensation. He rarely shows emotion, on and off the field. The constant glare that burdens an Indian captain, Dhoni is impervious to it.


Between the trophies and the finishes, it is perhaps this protective confidence he provided Indian cricket that is his most valuable contribution. Before him, India were stars and names. Under him, they became a team. Methods and structures were put in place. Chances were given to proven performers. Under him, Indian cricket emerged truly into the modern world.


India had always had captains. India had never had this.


He has never let cricket consume him. He takes his bikes out for a ride on the roads of Ranchi. He makes it a point to go to a shooting range on the first day of every year. He is part of India’s army reserves, and plans to serve later. Cricket is a small part of his life, and when he’s away from it, he truly is away.


He walked away from Test cricket in the middle of a series, at 90 Tests and 4800 runs. No allure of great numbers or grand occasions. He knew they had replacements, he knew the time was right.


Such has been his way: one of objectivity, keeping a game a game, all while conquering it. Untroubled by the fanfare and the pitchforks, he is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the central maxim of the Bhagavadgita: equanimity in joy and sorrow, and a monk-like detachment from the fruits of battle.


Years later, people might talk of him through his towering numbers as batsman and his numerous trophies as captain. What might be forgotten are the little things that I have tried to list. The skills no numbers can gauge, the feats no scorecard narrates. And I haven’t even begun on his stump mic commentary.


There is much to be written about Dhoni, from statistical analysis to critiquing his recent struggles. This, however, is not that. This, is a reminder of how he was an anomaly that worked. How his gorgeous heresy seals him a unique place in the pantheon of cricketing gods. A reminder of what he actually means.


We have always had cricketers. Will we ever again have this?