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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

End of a Saga ... MS Dhoni retires from Test Cricket !

Not a great day for Indian Cricket. End of a saga !!   Indian sports fan [read Cricket fan] is often fickle minded …. Critics have been braying for his blood ~ and would have cried for more, had India lost at Melbourne,  he ensured that Team salvaged a draw and ……..came the dramatic announcement.

Captain cool is a cliché often used to describe MS Dhoni. MSD has   tasted success in all formats of the game, and that too in just four years.  Former Indian skipper Kapil Dev, who led the country to its first major cricketing triumph - the 1983 Prudential World Cup - has no qualms in accepting that Dhoni is a better captain.  The transformation of MSD, from a long-haired pinch-hitter to a suave captain was as  dramatic as his exit now He burst on the scene in 2004 as a small-town boy with a penchant for whacking the ball out of the ground;  Captaincy came his way in September 2007  when many stars opted out of T20 WC ~ then there was the IPL – in between he had the guts to claim rest and opt out of a tour…. He has seen continued  failures in England and Australia too… yet he never wears his emotions on the sleeve and is mostly undemonstrative.  

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (7th July 1981) the best finisher in limited overs cricket,  has come a very long way since he made his debut in Dec 2004 against Bangladesh and played his first test a year later. The Vice-President of a big Corporate,  has interests in a IPL team, coowns Indian Super League Team Chennaiyin FC; racing team and Hockey team too.  He has been a recipient of many awards including ICC ODI player of the year; Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna; Padma Shri….. and more – the man who  captained India to glory in T20 WC 2007 and WC 2011 – has chosen to retire from Test Cricket – midway during the Tour – with immediate effect. 

Life can be so uncertain – a fall to disgrace from top can happen so suddenly.. every arm-chair critic wagged  his tongue and harsh words were  flowing unabated. True, the team has not been performing well  overseas but people have been rather harsh in their criticism choosing choicest adjectives calling for his head.  There was a time when most felt that his moves are so apt that nothing can go wrong – not any longer  !!! It was a meteoric rise for one born in Ranchi – a keeper batsman, unorthodox in his methods and unkempt in looks at that time to aspire playing for the Nation itself was a dream but he rose to become its  Captain shortly after his debut in Dec 2004 (ODI) and a year later in Tests.  While many would reel out his statistics of Tests, ODIs, T20s – here is something from a tour to Kenya which catapulted him to the big league – remember seeing him a fearless youngster making runs fast in the Tri Nation tournament held at Kenya.  That innings on 16th Aug 2004 at Gymkhana Club Nairobhi, a sensational 120 off 122 balls with 10 fours and 2 sixers catapulted him to National fame.  In Nairobi, he played alongside – Gambhir, DS Jadhav, Amit Bhandhari, Powar, Bahutule, S Sriam, Venugopal Rao, Avishkar Salvi,  and where are others ?  

There was a time when  management gurus and researchers were trying to map MS Dhoni's brain so they can understand how India's most successful captain's mind works - how he manages to synchronise his thoughts into ideas and then into deeds. One of India's leading business schools wanted to use the research as part of a neuromanagement course they planned to introduce.  At Sydney, he will not be there – India will take long to find a replacement and at some point of time, people will lament his absence calling for the head of the replaced skipper. All that happens in life and Cricket too. 

The stress of modern day is far different – MSD played Tests, ODIs, T20s, IPL, CLT20 and had more things to manage.  It certainly is beyond realms of ordinary minds to keep smiling and hitting as he lead India to No. 1 position in Tests, lifted the T20 & ODI WC; IPL title (twice) and the Champions League Twenty20. Dhoni has the onerous task of leading four teams, that had so many different players from far different places. A captain, a man-manager,a strategist, a wicketkeeper, a brand ambassador, and an idol for most aspiring Cricketers.

His impact was felt on silver screen too.  Dhoni, a film written and directed by Prakash Raj,  simultaneously made in Tamil and Telugu was released in 2012.  The nucleus was on the conflict between  a father and his son;  with the son aspiring  to become  famous cricketer like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Those of us following Indian Cricket know too well that many Captains went down humiliated.  Some like S. Venkatraghavan for no fault theirs.   Ajit Wadekar first showed that India can win Overseas – first at W Indies and then at England – and in 1974, Team performed so poorly that the team was so badly treated on arrival at the airport.   Sunil Gavaskar  was booed for his defensive captaincy at Eden Gardens; team bus was stoned after a loss to West Indies and fruits were thrown at Gavaskar  that he vowed not to play at Eden Gardens.  Bishan Bedi was dumped after that Pak tour in 1978.   The greatest all-rounder Kapil Dev lost his captaincy in 1984 and Azhar meted harsh treatment to him towards the end.  Azhar played 99 tests and ended with charges of match-fixing.  Sachin was unable to cope up with the pressures of Captaincy. 

The strong man MS Dhoni had on earlier occasions demanded rest and now has taken a considered decision to retire (midway !)  – sure, India will miss him.  Statistically, Dhoni played 90 Tests in which he scored 4876 runs at an average of 38.09, with six hundreds and 33 fifties. He captained India in 60 of those Tests, winning an Indian record 27 matches while losing 18 and drawing 15.  He took 256 catches and 38 stumpings adding to 294 test dismissals, the 5th highest among Wicketkeepers and best by an Indian thus far.   Dhoni's retirement comes with him one defeat away from equalling the record for most away defeats as captain - 16 - held by New Zealand's Stephen Fleming and West Indies Brian Lara.

Dhoni, the man has certainly left an indelible impression ~ from the time I started following  Cricket – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev,  Krish Srikkanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni stand out as class apart …….

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Dec 2014.

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