Why MS Dhoni's legacy shouldn't fade away
A look back at what MS Dhoni has done and will be remembered for as he turns 35.
A nation of a billion people had just a solitary World Cup to call their own until a fresh face stepped up with long, flowing hair in his first series as international captain and brought home the country's first World title in 24 years. Since then he has gone on to achieve every title possible as captain, claimed No.1 spot in all formats and still he hasn't done enough for a cricket-mad country whose fans crave for more and more, like the bees do with honey.
While it is true that he didn't do it all himself and had plenty of support on each occasion, to achieve what he has done as captain is truly remarkable and something deserves to be savoured, cherished and celebration.
Then again, MS Dhoni isn't just any cricketer. And on the occasion of his 35th birthday, let us take a step back and look at just what he has done for Indian cricket as a whole. So there will be no number crunching to determine whether he is the best finisher, or snide remarks at whether he deserves to be in the side doing what he does now or a look at when he should retire from the game.
No sir, it is time to take in everything he has done and ponder about what the legacy that he leaves behind.
After all, just not any player can convert a religious student of the game, who was in awe of the longest format and worshipped Rahul Dravid into a devotee of someone who had a technique of all his own making. From the low, hockey hands to the hoicks over mid-wicket, there was nothing textbook about Dhoni, nor was it always elegant but it was still enough to create an aura that not many resist falling in love with.
Whether it was rebuilding and accumulating with the team in trouble or unleashing his power when the team needed a final flourish, the multi-faceted MS was on hand to deliver the goods. While he may not have had the carefully crafted cricket career that some enjoyed or the sheer volume records that Sachin Tendulkar does, he has still done plenty to leave Indian cricket at a better than it was when he began.
The legacy Dhoni leaves behind
As a batsman, he has done everything and more in his power to help India get to a stage where they no longer had to worry about the team collapsing like a deck of cards if one man falls at the top. He may not have enjoyed as much success in the longest format of the game as he has in the shorter ones, yet he still averaged in excess of 38, which is not bad for a keeper, who many believed didn't have the technique to survive Tests.
As a wicketkeeper, he took the standard of keeping up to a level that is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon in this era of runs-oriented cricket where a keeper needs to be a batsman first and a solid man behind the stumps later. And much like the struggles India faced before Dhoni's arrival, there will be huge shoes to fill once he eventually calls time on his career.
Yet, it is as a captain that he divides plenty of opinions. While his tendency to wait for the mistake earns him rich rewards in the shorter formats, he has at times been found wanting when there was a need to push on and create opportunities. The bowling may not have always been good but the intent and intensity that is prevalent in coloured-clothing was almost invisible in whites.
And perhaps that is why he continues to be such an interesting topic for conversation in a country where every morning begins with cricket irrespective of the day of the week or the time of the year. And in a country where expectations never seem to diminish, it was always going to be difficult to maintain the standards that he set early in his career.
Emotion to be enjoyed
To experience the raw emotion that comes along with watching MS Dhoni finish an innings, you have to be at the stadium. Because, for all the development in quality of cameras and the variety of angles, nothing can substitute the passion and emotion that is evident and visible at the ground.
As one of the lucky many, who got to see MSD do what he does best at the Chepauk for the Chennai Super Kings, it sometimes drives me mad when people question the way he goes about his game.
While it is true that there is no need for him to get every game down to the wire, as the man himself has said on many occasions, you need to do what you are comfortable at. And if that means that the game goes to the final over then so be it because not everyone can finish a game with a thousand voices screaming into your ear and a million more watching you on television.
Critics aren't always easy to please, particularly because they are nowhere to be seen when success is imminent but are armed with brickbats as soon as the scent of failure is in the air. As it happened against Zimbabwe in June 2016 and on a few more occasions hitherto, where he failed to get the job done, it easy to say that he should change his approach.
But to err is human, isn't it? And for all of his records, the runs and nerves of steel, sometimes you just have to accept that it isn't your day and move on. For there hasn't been a player who is successful, if he lets success get to his head or failure tie him down. Just like life, you need to take the good with the bad.
The ignominy of those overseas whitewashes might still linger in the mind but that shouldn't tarnish Dhoni's legacy. For it was he who managed to transform a nation that has consistently produced world-class players to a team that challenged for titles and held their nerve when it came to it.
For that and all the memories that he has provided so far and will continue to provide until he calls it a day, thank you Mahendra Singh Dhoni.