Nothing in this world is eternal. Great people are born, they play their part but have to, at some point or the other, make way for the next generation. These generations, much like the next set of waves, always arrive quicker than expected. Time doesn’t stand still and anyone who takes that particular aspect for granted is taught the lesson the hard way.
Every once in a while, though, there is someone who comes along and challenges these notions. Not by saying that these theories or rules of life don’t exist altogether. But, by suggesting that for certain individuals, there is a bit of leeway.
An element of everything falling into place as a great gladiatorial entry is underway. An undeniable feeling that something special could be on the cards. And, at the cost of sounding ridiculous, a sense that time, which no mortal has ever won against, is standing still for just that tiny little moment.
In cricket, there have only been a few who have been bestowed with that privilege. The great Sir Vivian Richards left everyone in awe when he strode out, bat tucked inside his arm-pit, chewing gum and mercilessly tearing bowling units to shreds. The late great Shane Warne had it for a significant amount of time. He would waltz to the crease and then unleash magic – with only a few ever being able to decipher what he was all about.
In recent times, MS Dhoni has had that sort of an aura. Not because he is the greatest batter our generation has ever seen. Nor because he has the best batting record of any living cricketer. He hasn’t even been at his best in the past couple of years, for goodness’ sake.
But then again, when talking about cricketers like Dhoni, it isn’t always about conventional logic and wisdom. It is, more often than not, an emotion that can’t be described in words – a story that probably no one will ever be able to live but a story everyone feels is their own.
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Support for MS Dhoni in IPL 2022 has been sensational
Throughout this season’s IPL, fans at each venue have ensured that it becomes a memory that will live with every individual present at those grounds, irrespective of which IPL team they represent, which nation they belong to, or which cricketer they support.
Against the Delhi Capitals on Sunday, it wasn’t much different. Dhoni glided to the centre at the fall of the third wicket and all of a sudden, time stood still. Those clad in yellow were obviously cheering for their Thala. Those in other colours, too, took a moment to gape in awe and above all, just appreciate what they were witnessing.
To an extent, Dhoni delivered. He bustled his way to an 8-ball 21, which in the context might not seem a lot, considering how DC folded. At that stage, however, it was just the finishing kick they needed. Shivam Dube had departed and Devon Conway had fallen short of a hundred too. Ambati Rayudu, meanwhile, was swinging like a rusty gate. So, Dhoni had to get the Chennai Super Kings past the 200-run mark.
The second ball he faced saw him dance down the track and pummel Mitchell Marsh over long on. Just a ball ago, he was taken aback by the extra bounce, and in archetypal poker fashion, he shadow-practiced a defensive stroke, only to smack Marsh off his length.
On the third ball, Dhoni scythed it past backward point, recreating memories of that famous cut shot against Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final. It wasn’t a lot. It wasn’t a stroke that will win CSK the IPL – like it did for India that night at the Wankhede. But because it was Dhoni, it was enough.
The show wasn’t over, though. In the 19th over, Khaleel Ahmed showed his hand early. To Moeen Ali, he had set the short-ball trap, and Dhoni, like it almost always happens, had read it. As soon as Moeen arrived, the CSK skipper gestured him to expect the short ball. The Englishman did and collected a boundary off the first ball he faced.
Later in the over, Dhoni stood tall and clattered Khaleel over long-off. It wasn’t the cleanest stroke he has ever executed. But it was a reminder that akin to all great fighters, he might still have one great fight left in him. This article, however, isn’t a debate on how much the veteran still has to offer to CSK.
For all intents and purposes, this could be the final time he features for the franchise as a cricketer (well, unless he is called out of retirement to finish off a game in 2023). Jokes apart, there is an acknowledgement that the great man won’t be around forever. CSK haven’t come to grips with it, and by the looks of it, neither has his massive pan-India fan base.
That, by the way, sort of explains why every ball Dhoni faces is cheered. Every time he appears on the big screen, people break into a celebratory dance. At each toss, the commentator has had to wait for the fans to hush themselves before engaging in conversation with the wicket-keeper.
All this is not because Dhoni is one of the greatest cricketers to have ever come out of India (well, it actually is to an extent). Instead, it is because people have come to the realisation that this could actually be the last time they witness Dhoni in the flesh.
The story they could relate to might no longer be available for their perusal every time. The boy next door, who was the ultimate epitome of a rags to riches tale, might not be the beacon of long-lasting inspiration anymore. Their greatest fears – fears of not being able to close out games of cricket, might actually be coming true.
But that is the fine line between Dhoni and most other cricketing legends. He has dared people to believe. And he is now daring them to get over whatever he has done over the years. He, being his pragmatic self, knows he won’t last forever. He, like most things in this world, is not eternal. Yet, somewhere in some discrepancy in some part of this globe, he is.
When Dhoni is around, time continues to stand still. Everything, irrespective of the result, falls into place for that one tiny moment. All that seemed lost suddenly seems reprievable. It’s magic. But it’s not like we have always known it to be. Nor, is it like something we will ever have the privilege of knowing in the future.