When MS Dhoni was sitting at the Kharagpur railway station, thinking of what lies ahead for him, he would not have ever thought that he was going to play for 13 years in international cricket. He has not stopped yet. Had he not decided to go back and pursue his cricket seriously, we might not have seen a phenomenon so powerful yet calm, going by the name of MS Dhoni.
How did he arrive?
Aggressive. Attacker. He bats like Sehwag. There were many adjectives associated with MS Dhoni before he played his first ODI against Bangladesh. Indian fans hoped, prayed for a wicket-keeper batsman, who could bat like Adam Gilchrist. There were many who came and went trying to live up to the hope. MSK Prasad, Ajay Ratra, Vijay Dahiya, Sameer Dighe. The situation was so dire that Rahul Dravid had to wear the keeping gloves on.
And here was a man, another potential ‘Adam Gilchrist’, who was ready to take on the challenge.
Dhoni’s arrival was hyped up. He was hugely built. Not too long but he was beefy. He looked rowdy. People thought he is going to thrash bowlers all over the park. He can open with Sehwag and the two will change the course of the game forever, opening the innings. He had long locks.
The one thing that everyone sensed was that he was different. How he was going to be different was still to be decoded.
And then came the moment when Dhoni arrived at the crease. He tapped the ball and ran for a single, that never happened as Dhoni was short of his crease. He lasted for a minute in the middle, going back after scoring a golden duck. After years of thinking himself batting in the middle, he was out on the first ball of his career and that too a runout. Not many knew that this man was going to play next 13 years of international cricket with an average of above 50 and it would be too difficult to stop him from converting ones into twos and twos into threes, forget about getting him run out. Dhoni clearly did not want to get out on 0. In his 312-game ODI career thus far, he has been out on 0 only 8 times. He knew how to make amends.
Dhoni walked back to the dressing room, speedily. ‘There is only one Adam Gilchrist’, everyone quipped around me at my home. Indeed, there is only one Adam Gilchrist, and the Australian legend had himself said that. Dhoni was different, he opined.
After failures in next two games, there was no hope inside Dhoni. He thought his time was over. Before the 2nd ODI against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam came the phone call in his room. It was Sourav Ganguly on the other side and with him were the words which changed the fate of Indian cricket. Ganguly said, “Mahi, you are playing tomorrow.”
The rest is history.
Dhoni smashed a 123-ball-148, including 15 fours and 4 sixes against Paksitan in the 2nd ODI of the series against Pakistan. That was one of those rare occasions when you saw MS Dhoni celebrate animatedly on the field after scoring a century. He held the cricket bat in his hand like a Reifel and gestured shooting at the dressing room.
The next day headline in the newspaper read, ‘A Star Is Born’.
It was tough to stop this man from thereon. He became the captain of the national team, leading the players he dreamt of playing with one day. He chose to drop them during a series, when he felt there was a need of young blood in the team. It was his foresightedness and calmness that made him stand out. Amidst the crowd where aggression meant crying your heart out and giving a mouthful to the opponent, Dhoni never believed aggression could be displayed through an action. He carried himself calmly, even when he faced back to back whitewash in England and Australia as Test captain.
If he was unstoppable when he and his team was in form, he was unmoved despite the heavy criticism during the dark days. In these last 13 years, nobody has heard of Dhoni sledging someone or Dhoni replying to his critics through statements.
He, once, went overboard when he lined up the whole Indian squad in a press conference. But that was the last time you saw him trying to prove a point off the field. He became rigid with the fact that if there was anything he wanted to prove, it was cricket and it was played on a cricket pitch. If there is anything he still wants to prove today, it is that he can still play and he continues to do that.
Dhoni has captained India for 9 years. He made his debut under Sourav Ganguly and he just played under Rohit Sharma, who made his debut under Rahul Dravid. Dhoni is a bridge between the Virat Kohlis, Rohit Sharmas and Tendulkars, Gangulys, Dravids. He does not belong to any generation of Indian cricket. Had he not been there, we might have never seen an Indian team of today. This last sentence sums up Dhoni’s 13 years in international cricket.