A few more days of Captain Cool

MSD hitting six to make India win the World Cup in 2011I am writing this exactly 5 years after MSD launched Nuwan Kulasekara into the stands of Wankhede to beat Sri Lanka and lift the World Cup. I had just finished writing my 12th standard board exams on 30th March 2011, the very same day India took on Pakistan in Mohali and in less than two weeks, I had my IIT-JEE entrance exam. But on 2nd April 2011 I did not touch my books. I sat through all the 10 hours; the pre-presentation ceremony, the toss fiasco, the Lankan innings, the Indian innings and finally the Indian celebrations. Out of 15 players, some were part of the loss in 2003, some were part of the early exit in 2007, but all of them were part of touching the coveted trophy for the first time. And then out of 1.2 billion Indians, people like my dad saw India lift the world cup for the second time and people like me finally got to witness it for the first time. What a night it was!

Before lifting the World Cup, he led us to the first WT20 title against Pakistan, the tri-series in Australia, the pinnacle of Test cricket in 2009 and what not. But after 2nd April 2011, a lot of things have changed. Unfortunately, a lot of Indians call him selfish for coming ahead of Yuvraj Singh and getting the MoM award ahead of Gautam Gambhir. While he was not at his cunning best when it came to test captaincy overseas, a lot of people blamed only him. They are not ready to accept the fact that Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were nearing the end of their careers, our openers played irresponsibly and our bowlers were listless like always. Losing overseas in the longest format was something we all got used to but we did well in the shorter formats. His retirement from Test cricket was looming but no one expected it to come mid-way through the tour of Australia in 2014/15. His retirement after having played 90 Tests shows he did not play for records. The picture below is from his last Test match and is indeed very saddening; a man who never used to show emotions was having tears in his eyes.

MSD after retiring, with Suresh RainaSuresh Raina said that Dhoni told him, “After tonight, I’m not going to wear the white jersey. I have an extra large (jersey). This is Double XL. Keep this!”

Suresh Raina added, “He slept with his t-shirt on the entire night. Ishant, Ash, Virat and me were all sitting in his room.”

The same man, after a horrendous tour Down Under in 2014/15, managed his team efficiently to take us till the semi-finals when many of us did not expect India to get to the Top-4. The tour of Bangladesh in 2015 was saddening. Although India was the superior team, we have to accept that Bangladesh played well and that they beat many other giants that year; one of them being South Africa. But the fingers were again on MSD.

He went on to say, “I am really enjoying my cricket. If it is justifiable if you remove me (as captain) and the Indian cricket will start doing well, and if I am the reason for all the bad that’s happening to Indian cricket, definitely I would love to step away and play as a player.”

There were many rumors that MSD would call it quits after the WT20’16 in India. Being a big fan of MSD, I was scared because I feel he can still play more. After India lost to West Indies a few days back, I was glued to my screen to see if MSD would do something like what people were talking about. But no, he rubbished it in his own style by making an Aussie journalist answer the question. We loved it completely, didn’t we? He has shown his wits on the field to the opposition and off the field to the media.

MSD once said, “Till the full stop doesn’t come the sentence is not complete.”

Haters of MSD in India reminds me of atheists. Until he comes, they trash talk about him. But when India is in danger with few wickets down, suddenly MSD becomes a glimmer of hope for all of us including the haters. When India is in danger of defending a low total, MSD comes up with a master plan to strangle the opposition. If he succeeds, it considered a masterstroke or luck, if he fails then he is considered useless as usual. Sometimes we humans act like chameleons.

MSD run out against BangladeshRemember those massive sixes to seal the Asia cup finals and the run out by MSD against Bangladesh by removing his right hand glove, sprinting like a cheetah to dislodge the bails a few days back in WT20? Remember his calculative run chase and assist to Virat Kohli against Australia in WT20’16? Remember how he finished the game against Sri Lanka once when India needed 15 odd from the last over with 9 wickets down? I can go on because there are many such things MSD has done on the field.

Time and again, MSD has shown that he is a genius before the stumps and behind the stumps to guide India home more often than not. When he knows the pitch is slow or is struggling to launch a huge one, he makes sure he runs in those hard singles and doubles. At 34, he runs as fast as he ran when he made his debut. Ironically, he was run out against Bangladesh in his first international encounter.

That Sourav Ganguly was the linchpin behind the success of Indian cricket today cannot be denied but when he left, we needed someone who would be able get Indian cricket to greater heights; MSD did that. In a country where cricket is a religion, cricketers are treated as Gods and fans are like disciples. Allow me to just consider what some of the Indian greats feel about MSD.

“Dhoni has been an outstanding captain. His record as captain is terrific. He still has a lot of cricket left in him and he has done wonders to Indian cricket.” – Sourav Ganguly

“He has that uniqueness to respond to a tough situation with ease. He does not involve himself much emotionally, and that’s his quality. India are lucky to have a captain like Dhoni.” – VVS Laxman

“Dhoni is my hero. We talk a lot about Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, but this boy has as much as talent as anyone in the game.” – Kapil Dev

“He is a great leader by example. Someone whom I have always admired for his ability to remain balanced and have the sense of equanimity about his captaincy.” – Rahul Dravid

“Dhoni is the best captain I have played under.” – Sachin Tendulkar

So, if any of you admire and idolize the players above, admit that they have a great sense of the game and cannot be wrong, and you still happen to “hate” MSD as a player and as a captain, then are you questioning your idols on their views about MSD? Please do not be a hypocrite here. I am not asking you to love him but just respect him for he is the captain leading our country.

I am not only a fan of Indian cricket team but also Chennai Super Kings. Being a fan of CSK was amazing as we, the CSK lovers, witnessed more masterstrokes from MSD over a period of 8 years. And we are not going to stop watching because CSK has been suspended temporarily. We will watch him play for Pune and watch him perform his class acts once again before he is hopefully back to Chennai again.

I idolize all the players I have quoted above; I idolize MSD as well and I have many reasons for it. Just read what The Wall and VVS said about his ability to handle pressure with a cool head. Names such as “Captain Cool” and “Ice Man” did not come just like that; it was earned. I idolize him for his humbleness. He treats victory and defeat in similar manner; without showing much emotions. Despite being vocal about the mistakes, he backs his team mates always like a good leader. He gives the trophy away to the youngsters and sports a smile silently standing in a corner.

“If tomorrow he has to say goodbye to all the trappings of fame, Dhoni will calmly get on his motorbike and go away. He is that rarity who treats both those impostors – wins and losses – in the same way. He simply plays the game.” – Sunil Gavaskar

Five years since we won the World Cup, I am here in Munich, Germany. I have met many people from other cricketing nations and most of them were rational and logical. They said how badly they would love to have a captain and finisher like MSD.

Today, when there is a match where India is playing, I follow it closely because of two people mainly – Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Every time MSD came in to bat, I knew he would take us across the finishing line. Also, he does that in style by sending the ball to the boundary for a four or six. A victory with a boundary; an icing on the cake. That is the kind of finishes we are used to from MSD. And we, the fans of Indian cricket and MSD, can just hope that he retires in his signature style; with a humongous SIX!

There is this famous saying, “You realize the value of something only after you have lost it.”

The day is not far ahead when MSD would leave the team. We will have a scorecard without Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C). We will have a Wikipedia page that would read, “Mahendra Singh Dhoni, former captain of Indian cricket team”. We will whine about how we lack a finisher like MSD. We will miss his blink-of-an-eye stumpings and complain about the new keeper who might not be as lightening fast as MSD. But until then, let us enjoy a few more heroics from Captain Cool and have a bigger collection of memories to reminisce later.

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