Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who helped Indian cricket scale many peaks of glory, has played his last match in India. Set to retire from all forms of international cricket during the upcoming World Cup in England, and having opted out of the last two matches of the ongoing one-day series against Australia, this was the last time fans in India got to see this legendary wicketkeeper-batsman and the most successful Indian captain in action on Indian soil.
The fact that he opted out of the last two ODIs illustrated the fact that he wanted to play his last match in front of his home crowd, and he got a standing ovation when he walked away.
When Dhoni ran out Glenn Maxwell off a throw from Ravindra Jadeja, the crowd hailed him for his last dismissal in India as a wicketkeeper.
Be it for his practice session or a visit to the pitch just before the match, Dhoni’s home crowd fans’ eyes have trailed him and always cheered for him. They believe that Dhoni, who led India to two World Cups wins as well as the Champions Trophy, is their most treasured gift. Cheering for ‘Mahi’ was always done with reverence.
On Wednesday, he hosted a dinner for his teammates as if bidding them goodbye on their last visit with him to his city. The first thing Dhoni did on arrival before the match was to check out the pitch. He then right away went to the ground curator S.B. Singh and talked to him for a long time. He was also seen feeling the pitch with his hands. Having played numerous matches on this surface, he is as familiar with it as he is with the back of his hand.
India got off to a poor start chasing Australia’s massive total of 313 for 5 in 50 overs. After India lost their third wicket, Ambati Rayudu, instead of a despairing silence, the crowds cheered as their hero Dhoni walked all the way to the batting crease. It took Dhoni seven balls to get off the mark, and his first run was received with a lot of cheer.
When he drove Jhye Richardson for a boundary in the 10th over and followed it with a beautifully timed pull for another boundary, his fans were buoyant with joy. With Virat Kohli too in full flow, it was exciting time for fans as the two stalwarts put on a quick 50 runs partnership. Dhoni also obliged the fans with a six, hitting Nathan Lyon over midwicket.
But then the stadium was plunged to a hushed silence when Dhoni played Adam Zamba on to his wicket for 26. Incidentally, this was his highest international score in Ranchi since he did not have to do much in all his previous games there. The whole stadium stood up in reverence as he walked away for the last time from an Indian ground. The crowd then focused on Kohli who went on to complete his 41st century, but his effort went in vain as India lost by 32 runs.
A rueful Kohli said: “No team wants to lose early wickets, and we take pride in our cricket. We have strung partnerships after losing two wickets, but losing three in a bunch didn’t help. The guys who have got out, will try to make the most of the next opportunity. We will have a few changes in the next couple of games, but the idea is to tell the boys to put in match-winning performances, and the boys will be looking to be in top form before the flight to England.”