On 23rd December, 2004, when India were up against Bangladesh, a new player in blue jersey strolled out on field. We were told he was the new man who will be keeping the stumps (he literally kept on many during that illustrated career). He was a little bit beefed up, more fit as compared to the ones who used to do wicket keeping earlier (who looked like dwarfs in front of those belonging to other cricket playing nations). For once, we were happy that may be we got a keeper, who if not at par, will be equivalent to keepers from Australia, England, South Africa, etc.
Our hopes again went down the drain, when this man was out in front on duck (yes you read it right, a ZERO) and was not able to gather a single catch or done any
stumpings behind the sticks. I had a thought, “No INDIA, you can never ever have a decent wicket keeper“. The series went by and there was no substantial contribution by this man from Jharkhand (yes, we compared him to some adivaasi, as he was not like the usual suave players we used to see playing for India; he always looked one out of the league). We convinced ourselves for letting a midget, man child play for India as keeper (You know who, wink wink)…
Then came the series against arch rivals (aha, the neighbour we always wanted to go off the field hanging their heads in shame after a crushing defeat). We again saw this man , and gosh, are the selectors moron?? This man could not hold the willow properly, can’t keep the wickets, and they selected him again!!..
In the second match, the unpredictable happened. He was on rampage, hitting Pakistanis everywhere, running with their chaddis out, and broke the record of highest personal record from a wicket keeper batsman.He later on went on to make the personal record of highest score by a keeper batsman against SriLanka (yes, the same team he humiliated later in World Cup Final). This was the onset of a new era, a new dawn in the history of Indian cricket. Ladies & Gentlemen, MS DHONI has arrived on the scene.
Going fast forward in time, He took over the ODI captaincy in 2007 and lead India to the top of podium in the first ever held T20 world cup (the first goosebumps). He also went on to lead India to many wins, coming down the batting order and smashing sixes (our favourite helicopter shot), wielding willow at will, earning the title of the “best finisher of the game“. He was Lightening fast behind the stumps, doing stumpings at will (faster than the Usain Bolt; just kidding, however, he was very fast). The critics still shamed him off by calling him just lucky enough to win all these, like some charm, plainly ignoring the hard work behind. But not for once, DHONI seemed to loose his mind over petty things, neither on field, nor off field. He was like Buddha, calm and composed, serene, like he had some Serotonin pump fitted inside his body, under those long hairs (the best hairstyle he ever kept) keeping him cool, and Yes, here comes the second title, “THE CAPTAIN COOL“.
The pinnacle of his career, however, came in the final of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, where he hit 91 not out against Srilanka, in front of a bustling home crowd, chanting, “VANDE MATARAM” synchronously (My arm hairs are erect, and blood flow increased, remembering the moment already while writing this), handling India ODI world cup after a long haul of 28 years. The whole of the country was out on streets, waving flags, loudly saying , BHARAT MATA KI JAI …. Amidst the players, carrying Tendulkar on their shoulders, around the whole stadium, this man stood, holding his calm nerves, like , it was just a moment in his life and nothing more (and I wonder, what sea of emotions might have been making waves inside that body frame).
Out of all the captains, world has seen in the annals of cricketing history (probably more than 400 from all nations), He is the only captain to hold all the ICC titles (quite a feat, unparalleled).
He stepped down from test cricket, not after constant criticism from all quarters, but to concentrate more on his game in shorter formats and to leave India with a team, that could carry his legacy further.
Today, when he has retired as captain from all formats (Thank God, he will still play,just not as a captain), looking back, we all have grown, watching him play and shape the Indian team.
No pompous show, no on/off field gimmicks,
DHONI, YET AGAIN, FINISHES OFF IN STYLE …..
Thanks a lot CAPTAIN COOL, THE BEST FINISHER, THE LIGHTENING BEHIND THE STUMPS….
Thanks for all the wonderful moments you have given to us…