In the final session of the Boxing Day test, India were trying to dig in deep as there was a game to be saved there. An ultra attacking field was set. Two slips, two gulley, silly point, backward point, short extra cover and forward short leg. Mitchell Johnson came firing in and bowled it short. Any other player, in that sort of situation, would have tried to get on top of that ball and defend it cautiously. But, not MS Dhoni. Guess what he did? Bang he went with the big mighty horizontal bat and the red cherry whistled past the short point fielder to the advertisement hoardings down there at the boundary line.
That’s what he was and that’s what we would always remember him for. The former Indian test captain who always approached the game differently. He knew attack was his best defence and playing the cut shot was the best way he could have survived that Mitchell Johnson delivery and so, he went for it. He never thought he could easily be held out by one of those fielders placed in almost a ring on the off side. If he had indeed been held out and India had gone on to lose the test, he would have been crucified by the critics. But, not for a single second did that thought cross his mind and that’s because he never played to prove a point to the critics. He always did what he thought was right for his team, his Indian team. The team which he took to the no. 1 rankings.
Dhoni is perhaps the only Indian captain in the recent times who has overseen the transition. He saw three generation of cricketers in his captaincy. He saw ups and downs. He saw the downward curve of those ageing greats of Indian Cricket and then, he saw the upward curve of some excitingly talented youngsters. He took everything in his stride. He always tried to make the team keep moving on. Of Course, if you are the captain for such a long period of time, the bad times would come somewhere down the road. You would lose games. Dhoni lost too. But, he never let either success or failure get to him. He remained the same in success as well as failure. The same calm, graceful Dhoni.
There have been Indian captains in the past who did not mind taking their shirts off in the players’ balcony and hurling a few abuses on the field occasionally. But, that was not Dhoni’s cup of team. He never let anyone in the team feel small and that itself was the sign of a great leader. Forget the numbers. Forget the World T20 win in South Africa. Forget the CB Series win in Australia. Forget the Asia Cup win in Sri Lanka. Forget the World Cup win in Wankhede. Forget the Champions Trophy win in England. Forget everything. Can we please remember Dhoni only for being the true gentleman of the game? Somebody who never associated himself with the limelight and stardom. He came in a flash, went in a flash.