Biswajit Manna

If cricket is a religion in India, then legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and MS Dhoni must be the Gods of the game. India’s best-ever wicketkeeper-batsman is not just a cricketer. He is a cult figure in India. MS Dhoni is not just a name. It is an institution. The most important thing about Dhoni is, he comes from a very humble background with no cricketing connection. He comes from a state called Jharkhand, it didn’t have a very rich cricket history until Dhoni appeared on the horizon. Such is the aura of MSD. At times it feels unreal. It has to be. The man has won all the three major ICC events for the country – which makes him the most successful cricket captain India has ever produced. Statistics won’t tell you the real contribution of Dhoni towards Indian cricket. He doesn’t have the most number of runs or most number of centuries or stunning average like Sachin in all formats of the game, But he has something which sets him apart from all the others – never say die attitude.

After India crashed out of 2007 West Indies World Cup under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy, nobody thought India would do well, let alone be champions, in the first edition of the ICC T20 World Cup. Almost all the senior members of the 50 over the team were rested after the disastrous World Cup in the Caribbean where Men in Blue lost to Bangladesh. Greg Chappel had disappointed Indian cricket fans with his ridiculous tactics. So all of a sudden Dhoni had become India’s T20 captain for the South Africa tournament. It was almost a second choice. BCCI wanted to test the skill of its reserve bench. The team had amateur players like Robbin Uthappa, Joginder Sharma, S Sreesanth. Then, all were relatively new to the International cricket arena. But with Dhoni’s sharp cricketing mind and awesome team combination, India kept on winning and ultimately became the champion of first ICC T20 World Cup in 2007, the same year India had a pathetic 50 over World Cup run in West Indies. So it was like a too good to be the true story of sorts where even Indian cricket fans had to pinch themselves to believe that it happened after the dramatic scenes at the Final against arch-rival Pakistan. India performed with sheer dominance in this tournament. Not to forget Yuvraj Singh’s 6 sixes off Stuart Broad. He was in prime form. After this tournament, Dhoni became an overnight sensation. Winning a World Cup on foreign soil is not a matter of joke. He has done the un-doable. That was the beginning of what later described as another golden period of Indian cricket after Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sourav Ganguly era. Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India went on to win another 50 over World Cup in 2011, beating Sri Lanka at the historic final at iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Dhoni also played a pivotal role in this match along with Gautam Gambhir. Mahi also gave us ICC Champions trophy, thereby winning all the tournaments organized by ICC. It is a great feat. No Indian no other captain in cricket world has done this before. India also became the number one Test team under his captaincy.

Dhoni’s journey from Ranchi to the cricket field seems like a fairy tale. But it was not easy. Now we all know it. People are very curious about MS Dhoni. So much so that even a Bollywood movie was made after his life: MS Dhoni – The Untold Story.

One of the questions which are often asked about Dhoni is this- How he was discovered?

When MS Dhoni was first selected to play for Team India back in 2004, the Kiran More was the chairman of selectors. He played an important role in having faith in Dhoni’s capabilities and convincing other selectors, coach, and caption that he is a good enough player. So we must give him a chance. So when did Kiran More first saw Dhoni? In an interview with Rediff.com More said, I first saw him in the Duleep Trophy final between East Zone and North Zone in March 2004 in Chandigarh. In that match, we had a first look at him. He kept wickets and batted well. We selected India ‘A’ team for the twin tours of Kenya and Zimbabwe. We had got a report somewhere in 2003 that there is a wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand who is quite good. We had seen his batting before but we wanted to see his wicket keeping. So that’s how he kept wickets in that final.

Kiran More said they knew that Dhoni is immensely talented, but never really thought that he will ultimately become the most successful captain of the Indian cricket team in all formats. So what sets him apart from others? More explains that Dhoni has unbelievable skills. His mindset and understanding of the game are simply unparalleled. Dhoni loves challenges. He was the smartest guy on the cricket field. More also said Dhoni was not the best wicketkeeper when he came into the Indian team. But he worked hard with his keeping and batting skills. Then, Team India was looking for a wicketkeeper and Dhoni must have gotten this information. He was eying the spot of a wicketkeeper on the national team for a very long time. And when it finally happened, he made sure that he cemented his place in the team. During Dhoni’s time, players like Sachin, Sourav, Sehwag, Laxman retired from the game. So the team was going through a transition phase. Mahi played an important in making sure that the next batch of Indian players was ready to take the team ahead.

Dhoni was last seen in international cricket in last year’s 50 over World Cup in England. India played the semifinal match against New Zealand. India lost that match and eventually crashed out of the tournament. Since then Dhoni made himself unavailable for subsequent series. There have been speculations about his retirement from international cricket since last year’s World Cup. Neither Dhoni nor the Board of Control for Cricket in India has shown us a clear picture in this regard. But one thing looked certain, India moved ahead of MS Dhoni. Players like Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha managing the gloves work in the absence of Dhoni. ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled to be held in October-November in Australia. Team India’s head coach Ravi Shastri recently said, If Dhoni can play well in Indian Premier League (IPL), then he might be considered for the T20 World Cup. But with the coronavirus outbreak, IPL 2020 has become uncertain. Now it remains to be seen if Dhoni gets a chance to play for India one last time before hanging his boots.

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