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25 February 2017 | Last updated 11:45 PM
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“Captain Cool” that the members of the media will badly miss !
“The man –who that day was on top of the world- quietly standing away from the crowd on Raj Bhavan lawns at Malabar Hill in Mumbai, sipping tea and looking at the sunset”, is my first hand and lasting memory of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The day after India won the world cup in 2011 the Governor of Maharashtra hosted a reception for the winning team where I got the opportunity to interact with Dhoni for some time and realised within minutes what this man is made of.
While entire Indian cricket contingent was busy posing before select media photographers with the Governor and BCCI President right in the limelight on Raj Bhavan lawns the captain preferred to stand almost 30 meters away alone staring at the amber sky in westerly direction with his back towards the dignitaries!
This gave me the opportunity to quickly step close to him, click a picture of his and have a chat with him. I was speaking to the ‘captain of the world champion cricket team’ just about 24 hours after the final match played at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. Dhoni had no expression on his face.
“Aap akele door khade hai. Udhar log celebrate kar rahe hai. Cup jeeta hai aapne.” I said to him expecting some reply. He just looked at me and smiled without saying anything. I had to say something more to make him speak. “Did you expect to reach here when you won the quarter finals” I said in hindi. “Nahi buss ho gaya. Team ka performance ekdum se peak ho gaya” Dhoni said.
Feeling relieved that he at least said some words, I got into a conversation and sensing that I was an admirer of his, Dhoni then opened up and gave some insight to me about his overall philosophy towards cricket in particular and life in general. I had to reveal to him that I worked with a leading national business daily but was invited there as a guest of the Governor and that this conversation was going to be off the record so I cannot quote all the things that Dhoni said that day but I could clearly sense that this guy was not just a cricketer but a thinker.
In my view Dhoni’s tremendous popularity among masses can be mainly attributed to the fact that represents the aspiration of the rural or small town poor youth of India who have nothing to bank on yet they have the burning desire to make it big in life. A sportsman who was not born in Mumbai or Delhi, did not have rich parents, had to work his way up through sheer hard work and ultimately made it.
Mahatma Gandhi once said the real test of your character is done on the basis of how you behave with people below you. So one could sense how down to earth MS Dhoni is, not based on what he said to me but on the basis of how he was behaving with the catering staff and helpers at Raj Bhavan that evening. The inner goodness was very obviously visible. While many other members of the team were seen consuming exotic snacks that were delivered from a South Mumbai five star hotel and fancy beverages, Dhoni seemed disinterested in any such attractions and preferred to move to a quiet corner with a small tea-cup in his hand.
The man is lovable on the field because of the calm and stress-free approach that he exhibits. Under very stressful situations too he has never been seen shouting at his teammates and exhibits perfect leadership qualities. Whether team India will miss Dhoni as captain is something time till tell but the members of the media are surely going to miss their favourite captain cool!
Timeline of MS Dhoni’s career as India limited overs captain
- Dec 23, 2004: At 23, makes his ODI debut in Chittagong, and is run out for a duck.
- April 5, 2005: He was sent up the order against Pakistan and what followed was a blitzkrieg hundred. He smashed 148 in 123 balls with 15 fours and 4 sixes.
- October 31, 2005 : Dhoni stamps himself into the history books with a record 183* against Sri Lanka in Jaipur, helping India chase 301 with six wickets and 23 deliveries to spare.
- April 20, 2006: Dhoni overtook Ricky Ponting as number one in the ICC ODI Rankings for batsmen for the first time
- September 24, 2007: In a thrilling World T20 final against Pakistan, Dhoni’s gamble to give Joginder Sharma paid off and India won by 5 runs
- September 29, 2007: Captains India for the first time in ODIs, in a washed out fixture with Australia in Bangalore. Chasing 308, India are 9/1 when rain arrives.
- March 11, 2009: Dhoni becomes the first Indian captain to win an ODI series in New Zealand. A whirlwind century from Virender Sehwag seals a ten-wicket win in Hamilton.
June 24, 2010: India lift the Asia Cup after 15 years under Dhoni, beating Sri Lanka by 81 runs in Dambulla.
- April 2, 2011 - Hit a majestic 91 not out to guide India to their second World Cup.
- June 23, 2013 - His effectiveness as a leader guides India to victory in the Champions Trophy final
- January 31, 2016: Dhoni leads Team India became the first ever team to whitewash Australia in a Twenty20 International (T20I) series.
- January 4, 2017 - Announces that he is giving up the captaincy, but remains available for selection for the upcoming England series.
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