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MS Dhoni is a step ahead of us all

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MS_Dhoni_India_legend_cricket‘It seemed like we were just passing the trophy back and forth, by making mistakes alternately, and the team which won in the end, was the one which made one mistake less than the other.’ Succinctly and wittily put with a smile on his face. A sad smile, but one loaded with wisdom, hindsight and foresight at the same time.

What does MSD have which other captains perhaps lack (or lacked, or will lack in the future)? Willpower, knowledge, composure, talent, experience? All or some of these? Not easy to pinpoint of course. But surely, all of us must agree that he is a ‘philosopher cricketer,’ a literal ‘seer’ who observes everything, misses nothing, stores and processes several terabytes of data in his mind.

He is often sure (gut instinct or intuition), but keeps everyone guessing with that poker face of his – be it over number 1 or 20, or in ODIs, 50. He acts in the present, learns from the past and plans for the future, all at the same time – an archetypal Cancerian!

A man who finds a way anyway (‘We would have liked to come over the wicket, but now we have to go round the wicket…’ is what he said in the post-match talk after losing to MI in the 1st qualifier and having to face the winners of the match between DC and SRH to come to the finals of the IPL), and has inspired so many cricketers over the years, will surely be remembered as a mighty legend, after he puts down his bat, pads and gloves, and retires from active cricket.

 

‘It is okay, you bowled a good line and length…no worries if Quinton de Kock hit you for all those boundaries,’ was what he told Deepak Chahar on the 12th of May 2019 at Vizag. And Chahar came back strongly, justifying the faith MSD placed in him. That is leadership at its utmost best! Adapting from William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, You are the master of your fate. It is a powerful bit of advice every skipper must have in his armoury to help his teammates along.

 

MSD’s run out (courtesy Ishan Kishan who actually can be looked upon as the real game-changer for MI) may linger on in mind, but what stands out is his unfazed countenance and forward thinking for IPL 2020 and the ensuing ODI World Cup, when he had that chat with Sanjay Manjrekar after the match.

MSD led India to a World Cup victory on the 2nd of April, 2011, in Mumbai, clobbering Kulasekara for a six which sealed the fate of the Lankans. He wanted to make it two in a row, but 2015 seemed to be a different cup of tea. Now, in 2019, MSD will not be captaining the side, but playing under Kohli’s leadership, having groomed Kohli for the role (another quality of a leader who makes sure that the mantle is passed onto someone capable and worthy). MSD proved his mettle in ODIs on foreign soil last year – by scoring a hat-trick of half centuries (51, 55 not out and 87 not out in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne respectively), following that up with an unbeaten 48 across the Tasman Sea, and then notching up another half century against the touring Aussies in Hyderabad soon after. It remains to be seen if he will bat at number 4, as he did for CSK in the IPL this year, or at his customary number 6 position. That of course depends on a host of factors – the pitch, the opposition, the state of the match, the form of the other batsmen, and above all, on what Kohli and the thinktank (coaches) have in mind.

Surely, the all-observing pair of eyes and the ever-pondering brain from behind the stumps will give Virat Kohli the comfort of counsel when in a fix. What after the World Cup? One wishes that MSD adds more catches to his tally of 313, more stumpings to his bag of 120, more runs to his aggregate of 10,500, more half-centuries and perhaps a century in a winning cause.

No matter where India finishes in the end, it will be praiseworthy if MSD decides to hang up his gloves by his own will and volition and opt to be sorely missed, rather than throw the ball into the selectors’ court. A la Dravid, a la Laxman, both of whom bade goodbye to the game, when MSD was captain.

Respect, which some cricketers earn over time. It does not come easily, and sustaining it after it comes, is extremely difficult. MSD knows this. His decision to retire from Test cricket and step down as captain in the ODI and T20 formats of the game, enhanced the respect millions of cricket-lovers already had for him.

He is likely to be seen pretty soon, in the avatar of a mentor or a coach, benefiting several young cricketers in the future. Though he would surely already have planned all his moves. Like an astute chess player, he is known to keep us all guessing…



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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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