Dubai: “Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired.”
A terse one-liner message on Instagram ended more than a year of speculation as Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket - putting a stop to a glittering career spanning over 16 years and several landmarks for Indian cricket.
It was so typical of the man known for his lack of fuss and apathy for dramatics in goodbyes. He stepped down from Test cricket as quietly - both as a captain and player - after drawing a Test series against Australia in end-2014 to make way for Virat Kohli taking over the mantle. Cut to January, 2017, when he dropped a bombshell again by stepping aside from captaincy of white ball cricket too to play with all the freedom he deserved after leading the 'Men in Blues' for a decade.
The only allowance for emotion that he gave was possibly in choosing the day - India’s Independence Day - as he readied himself to slip into the yellow shirt of Chennai Super Kings for good as they began their camp in Chennai in preparation for the upcoming IPL 2020 in the UAE. Suresh Raina, Dhoni’s long time deputy in CSK who had been out of reckoning of the Indian selectors for at least last two years, followed suit within half-an-hour of the former calling it quits.
From now on, Dhoni will be only the ‘Thalaiva’ (leader) for the Whistle Podu fans, where his future is secured at least for the next two seasons of IPL - should he want to continue with franchise cricket.
The instagram video reflects the hallmark of quintessential Dhoni. A haunting, personal favourite Hindi song of Mukesh from Amitabh Bachchan’s Bollywood classic Kabhi Kabhi: ‘Mai Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hu’ (I am a poet of the fleeting times), which he sang at an appearance at a promotional gig sometime back, played in the background as a montage of Dhoni’s decorated career in international cricket rolled by in the entire video. The underlying philosophy of the man who hailed from the small town of Ranchi to reach the pinnacle of cricketing glory was simple - fame is transient.
The journey stopped rather unceremoniously with India’s exit in the last World Cup semi-finals to New Zealand in 2019 - possibly the only occasion which saw Dhoni in tears on the ground as he walked off after getting run out.
The speculation started from there onwards about his international career as the erstwhile ‘Captain Cool’ went on a sabbatical from international cricket. The ending could have been different if there had been no Coronavirus pandemic this year which pushed back the IPL towards the end of the year and postponed the T20 World Cup to beyond 2020 - sending the alert in his mind that a last hurrah is now beyond reach. The firecely private person that he is, we will never know what played on Dhoni's mind though.
The only captain in international cricket to win all major ICC trophies (50-over World Cup, T20 World Cup and Champions Trophy), Dhoni also saw the Indian team climb to world No.1 in Test rankings. He played 350 ODIs in all, with his highest score being 183 against Sri Lanka.
He is also known for his uncanny knack of taking the right call in opting for reviews and many have jokingly remarked to change the ‘Decision-Review System’s’ name to ‘Dhoni-Review System’.
His IPL franchise Chennai has won the tournament thrice under his leadership, alongwith the now defunct Champions League once.
It’s a decision which was certainly overdue, but his legion of fans can take heart from the fact that he will be around for some more time in franchise cricket. What, of course, is unfortunate that the customary roar, which greeted ‘MSD’ whenever he stepped onto the field, will have to wait for some more time with no fans to be allowed at least in the initial stages of the IPL in UAE!