MS Dhoni has not played international cricket for almost a year, but he is still one of the most talked-about and beloved cricketers. What makes the World Cup winner unmatched? We try to decipher. Captain Cool turned 39 on Tuesday, July 7. Though he is no longer the great long-haired hitter or all-defeating captain of Team India, he remains one of the country’s most beloved cricketers, if not the most beloved.
As he celebrates his birthday far from the limelight, it’s a flashy social media affair that’s packed with #HappyBirthdayMSDhoni posts. His former and current teammates sent out nightly tweets, wishing him a special day. One of them has even composed and released a song to mark the occasion.
Almost a year has passed since Dhoni played competitive cricket at the highest level and his cheeky appearance of salt and pepper in rare appearances in Sakshi’s social media stories are only fueling speculation about his international future.
“January tak mat poocho,” MSD had said when asked about his future last year. It’s July and there’s still nothing on his side except the heavily worded rebuttals of retirement rumors.
Some of his fans and former teammates expect him to “play for another 10 years,” but Dhoni is certainly at the end of his international career. As the cricket world celebrates its 39th birthday, here’s a look at 7 things that have made MSD the fan-favorite cricket player that Paisa-vasool is.
The MSD computer
Already in his first tournament as captain, MSD proved that it’s not just about his batting and wicket keeping skills. It was the ‘computer’ on his shoulders that elevated his status in international cricket. With a formula that can backfire on others and often seems inexplicable from the outside, Dhoni led India to some of the best wins, including the much-celebrated 2011 World Cup.
When Dhoni is in the middle: guaranteed nail bites
The calm and calculated approach was reflected in his hitting as well. While MSD started out as an aggressive hitter who would carry the attack on opposition bowlers from the get-go, he became today’s finalist who likes to play mind games with opposition bowlers.
When Dhoni is in the middle, all hope is not lost. Even when the task seems improbable as it did in his last international appearance, TV screens don’t turn off when he’s outside with “his computer turned off.”
The whirlwind wicketkeeper
Dhoni did not start his career as the whirlwind glove that he evolved to be. “Questions were asked about wicket maintenance skills.”
However, he worked hard and made sure hitters thought twice before going out or worried when they lost their balance while playing a shot when handling the gloves. Not forgetting the odd angles from which it hits wickets that many in the recent past have found difficult to replicate.
The teacher, the micro stump and its spinners
Spinners certainly lack MSD behind stumps in their time outside of sport. From R Ashwin to Kuldeep Yadav, the impact of Dhoni on the current generation of Indian spinning pitchers is well documented.
Dhoni’s reading of the game and consequent one-line advice to spinners have led to some of the most enjoyable microphone chats over the years.
Even a Marathi version was heard last year when Dhoni was giving advice to Kedar Jadhav, someone who attributes his bowling career to the former captain.
The Dhoni review system
Dhoni was not in favor of the Decision Review System for quite some time in international cricket. While other international teams incorporated the technology, India resisted for a considerable period.
However, it was not a surprise that the cool captain continued DRS after India began adopting the technology. Nicknamed ‘Dhoni Review System’ by his fans, the Ranchi hero receives DRS calls correctly most of the time. More importantly, he has the ability to influence his teammates, including Captain Virat Kohli, to make the correct DRS calls.
“Leg stump ke bahar ja rahi hai. Check kharab ho jayega aur kuch nahin. (He is missing leg stump. We will miss a check; nothing more),” Dhoni was heard saying during the tour of India in the West Indies in 2017.
Simple and sharp.
The post-match pearls of wisdom
The world of cricket has always been fascinated by Dhoni’s thought process. Since he largely chooses to stay away from media interactions and social media conversations, post-match analysis has been the only window on the Dhoni computer.
Already lamenting the lack of athletic ability to comment on the quality of the opposition when evaluating a Chepauk 70s track, Dhoni keeps it straight and simple.
At post-match press conferences, it’s best to stay away from questions about your future and retirement.
Dhoni has over 10,000 ODI races. He has won all of the ICC trophies that are there to be earned as captain. However, Dhoni has made sure to have things to keep him busy and distracted while he’s not on the field.
Whether it’s love for his family or a passion for superbikes and supercars (lately tractors), Dhoni has given his fans a lesson in work-life balance.