The BCCI has never transparent with the cricket fans and we are aware of only the part of the story the insiders want us to know. One fine day, MS Dhoni bombarded a bombshell by stepping down as India’s limited-overs captain. From across the globe, tributes began to pour to salute to India’s most successful ODI/T20I captain. After a few days, it was revealed that Dhoni did not resign on his own, but was forced by the BCCI to do so.
Dhoni and heroic finishes in either 50-over or 20-over have been associated with each other for a while now. The final of the ICC Cricket World Cup, where the then Indian Captain Dhoni stayed till the end and help India lift the trophy after 28 long years is the greatest testimony of the fact that he is easily the best finished the sport has ever witnessed. However, in the last couple of years, Dhoni has given more traumatic memories than the happy ones by failing to do what had been his bread and butter all this while – finish the matches.
The latest disappointing memory is easily the North South ODI against West Indies earlier this year. India suffered a shocking batting collapse during their chase of a mere 190 runs. When Dhoni walked in, India were 47 for 3 with more than 200 balls in hand and everybody were more than sure that it was India’s match and when Dhoni was there, there was no need to fear about the result. What followed that hurt the man himself more than anyone else on the Earth. He went on to score a fifty off 108 balls, the slowest by any India batsman in ODIs since 2001. It was also Dhoni’s slowest fifty, beating the 88 balls he took against Pakistan at Eden Gardens in 2013.
He was dismissed for 54 off 114 balls and that knock was inclusive of just one four and that was so unlike Dhoni. He walked off the field, with head down with an expression on his face that feared all the cricket followers; was that the end of him? Does a man, who has done so much for his country, has an end as miserable as this one? Let alone to him, even cricket did not deserve to watch him walk away from the game in this manner.
While Dhoni was going through a rough phase, being bombarded with retirement questions which technically are not anybody but only his business, the Indian selector MK Prasad added fuel to fire by hinting Dhoni’s place in the Indian team is not secured anymore, as it had been when he was the captain.
“We can’t say selection in the team is an automatic thing. We are all stakeholders. We all want the Indian team to do well. If he is delivering, why not? If he is not, we will have to look at alternatives.,” MK Prasad said this clearing sending out a message to Dhoni that he must have numbers now to back him to retain a place in the national team.
Prasad said this just before the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka where Dhoni was roped in but the other senior man, Yuvraj Singh was dropped, in the name of “rested.”
Now it was Dhoni’s turn to respond with an answer; to MK Prasad, secretly, and directly to the media and as he has always done, he let his bat and gloves do the talking. And in what style!
In the first match, thanks to Shikhar Dhawan’s century he did not bat. Although, he had a lightning stumping to his name. From there he was two stumpings behind striking a historic century as a wicketkeeper. In the second ODI, he not only finished another stunning work of stumping behind the wickets but also remained unbeaten on 45 off 68 and ensured India successfully crossed the line while their chase of 238 runs. In the Kandy match, India suffered a collapse in the top and middle-order, leaving the finishing job for the former captain. It was a golden opportunity for him to make amends for his past failures as a finisher and Dhoni made no mistake there. India won the match with more than five overs remaining and for a third time in the series, Dhoni was unbeaten. He repeated the same show in the fourth ODI, where he remained not out at 49 and ensured India had a good total on the board. The highlight moment was waiting in Colombo in the final ODI.
When Dhoni stumped Akila Dananjaya off Yuzvendra Chahal on the last ball of the 45th over, he reached an incredible milestone by becoming the first-ever wicketkeeper to register 100 stumpings in the history of cricket. He surpassed Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara’s 99 and it is more than certain that the record will solely belong to the legendary Indian wicketkeeper-batsman for a very long time. The next active keeper who is on the list is Bangladesh Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, who is 60-odd stumpings away from Dhoni.
With a 5-0 win against Sri Lanka at their backyard, India became the first country to whitewash them in their home. The last two matches were highlighted more because of Indian Captain Virat Kohli’s back-t-back two ODI tons and in the future Kohli’s innings will be more associated with India’s tour of Sri Lanka 2017. While Kohli was busy hammering the Lankan bowlers, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma tasted their own piece of a century each, Lasith Malinga reached a milestone of 300 ODI wickets, and Jasprit Bumrah troubled the hosts’ batting line-up, Dhoni quietly proved his worth as still one of the crucial members of the Indian team, despite fighting against time and age.
At 36, Dhoni’s recent work behind the stumps proved everyone that he still remains to be the most flexible and agile keeper in the current generation, amongst the younger wicketkeepers. With ICC Cricket World Cup two years away, India needs someone as reliable as him as the wicketkeeper. When the man himself continues to stay at his best fitness and game, why look for someone else?
When the selectors wanted him to provide more evidence of him as a worthy batsman in the team, he went on to do more than that. He remained unbeaten in the five-match ODI series that recently ended in Sri Lanka. That was the second time Dhoni was not out in all matches in an ODI series; the first time was against England at home in the five-match ODI series. With 162 runs in five ODIs, the former No. 1 ODI batsman, Dhoni, has found his way back into top 10 of ODI batting ranking.
Just when people thought it was the end of Dhoni, the player who never hesitates to surprise and the most-loved Indian skipper opened a new chapter in his career. His first few steps – the keeping records and return in top 10 ranking – with an ultimate goal of playing the World Cup 2019 have been positive for both himself and Team India.