Here ends a memorable phase in one of the most compelling cricketing fairytales! The outpour on social media may push the unaware to believe that it’s the end of the story. But, MS Dhoni’s fans may well learn a lesson from him at this hour — in being balanced and temperate. Somewhere, you can imagine him saying, “Guys, I’ve only quit captaincy and not retired!” The Helicopter hasn’t landed yet, it has only changed course!
The nine-year long stint at the highest level has seen some exhilarating highs, which shall remain etched in memory. And, a few lows in such a long journey were inevitable. Dhoni as a leader, was a man who invoked extreme emotions from the cricket loving public. Those who backed him as captain, stood by him to the hilt. Others were a defeat away from calling for his head, but even they couldn’t deny the impact the man has left behind.
The World Cup 2011, World T20 2007, Champions Trophy 2013 and the No. 1 Rank in Test cricket are jewels in Dhoni’s crown. But, you’ve got to look beyond those triumphs to assess the impact of the man. He truly has been a gamechanger for India! From emerging as a fearless hitter with long locks to the present senior pro giving-up captaincy, Dhoni’s evolution as a player has mirrored India’s rise over the last 10 years. Breaking the shackles from conventionalism, he showed the system how to embrace the unorthodox and being fearless yet dependable. And, this from a man who emerged from one of the least likely cricketing cities — Ranchi!
Since Dhoni took over in 2007, the belief in the side has grown in leaps and bounds. Most of India’s successful 300-plus chases in ODIs have come after his arrival. Yes, Virat Kohli has had a huge role to play in them, but he too is very much a product of Sachin Tendulkar’s dominance and Dhoni’s game temperament.
So what next?
That is the important question! Dhoni has taken the right call as this will give Kohli enough time to get ready ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Although the official announcement hasn’t been made so far, India’s premier batsman is expected to take over. The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 will be Kohli’s first major test and Dhoni being around will be a huge factor. Remember, unlike Test cricket, Kohli will still have Dhoni’s wisdom at his disposal. His mere presence will help Kohli grow as a captain in the shorter formats. From a succession point of view, it is a good call as Kohli can be groomed further for the World Cup.
What next for Dhoni, the player? He is still fit and the best option for India as a wicketkeeper-batsman in limited-overs cricket. Perhaps, this will allow him to play with greater freedom and he may express himself. For a major part of his captaincy, he has batted down the order and finished games with great consistency. Perhaps, this is time to give him a promotion with a licence to kill. A mature Dhoni can build the innings to allow others to bat around him. At the end of the year, he may then assess his career. Unless, he drops a bombshell like he did on a Wednesday.