If modern cricket has to be defined in an era, I would love to categorize it into two halves. The pre-2005 era and the post-2005 era. The first half of the era that I am going to describe was the era where Australia showed the whole world their dominance in Test and Limited Over games of cricket.
The legends of the game conquered the red-ball cricket and left-handed charismatic characters stole the show. The Lara and Hayden topped most of the headlines while the Akram and Waqar’s swings topped the chartbusters with Walsh and Ambrose not far behind.
The Love story of little master Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar from England to Australia and that blast in the dessert storm in the UAE was the center of attraction of that era where run a ball 50 was not considered anything less than a herculean effort.
Amidst all of this cricketing gentlemen, a young boy in Harvard Dormitory was in course of changing the communication world of this earth upside down with the discovery of Facebook in 2004 A.D.
How on earth can Mr. Zuckerberg fit into the cricketing world? That must be a common roast in your mind, isn’t it? Well, he has made all of us so connected that he fits in everywhere.
This was the same year, a long-haired strong Gentlemen paved his tough way towards international cricket. Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced himself making a not so fairy tale debut against Bangladesh in 2004 A.D.
His 3 innings in Bangladesh weren’t attractive enough but he showed glimpses of some lofted drives and punch of the backfoot in those little nightmares of the debut series for a 23 years old fearless Dhoni.
Then came 2005, a year in which I thought the cricketing world got more than it could’ve ever asked for. Dhoni with the belief of his management and the charismatic Sourav Ganguly announced himself at the International arena.
He smacked the arch-rivals Pakistan all over the place with a massive 148 in Vizag. India has revealed a diamond that became Kohinoor with the time passed by with some unorthodox shot-making and finishing.
Not only in India but the butterfly effect had made 2005 a revolutionary year for cricket with one of the greatest Ashes series was played in the same year. It announced the arrival of the young generation of England with Kevin Pietersen leading the troops.
While the greats in the lights of Shane Warne and Glenn Mcgrath were getting the pounding from a young and dashing Kevin Pietersen in the Oval. Some 4965 Miles in Vizag Mahendra Singh Dhoni was making his bat shut all his critics with that heavy BAS willow.
Then the real era which I’ve categorized as the post 2005 happened and Dhoni started to show all his true colors. He smashed 183* in a run chase against Srilanka and thrashed Chaminda Vaas as well as Muttiah Muralitharan all over the park.
He smashed his 1st test ton in Pakistan when he forced Shoaib Akhtar to bowl him a pacey beamer. Little did we know that an era has already started with Dhoni at the business end.
Although time and again we got to see Sachin in his flawless charisma, Dhoni had already his foot on the peddle and began a new era of youth in Indian cricket.
The output of it was seen in 2007 where young Dhoni led his young troops in the new version of world cricket in South Africa. His full flair in captaincy, wicket keeping and as a batsmen was seen more distinctively in this shortest format that uplifted Indian cricket forever.
His utmost decision to make Joginder Sharma bowl in the crunch moment of the game and to give Robin utthapa a go in the bowl out against arch rival in the early stages of the competition showed his smart decision making capabilities in the dying moment of the game.
The captain cool got his real job done at the international level. His smartness made him a unique character when it comes to trusting his inner self and instincts.
As a result he made the under dogs of the tournaments, a force to reckon with and turned a team with limited resources into champions. Youngsters like Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Shreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh and Rohit Sharma stood for him.
He won India the most important world T20 trophy in the same year in which they were humiliated at the 50 over world cup in West Indies. The nation went into chaos with an early exit of the previous edition finalists in South Africa.
The huge reception that the young Indian team full of youth and energy got opened the door for the investors to invest in a shorter format that had all the flavors to enjoy for the crowd. This led to the birth of Indian Premier League(IPL) that changed Indian cricket and world cricket forever.
Similarly the CB series in 2008 featured swing bowlers and fit fielders that paved the Indian cricket into new era. The transition phase was worked with new skill sets and Dhoni was rewarded with some more overseas wins.
He made a strong unit with fittest players making way ahead of the senior pro’s who Dhoni considered weren’t fit enough eyeing a home world cup to bring back glory after 28 years in their own backyard.
As Sarang Bhalerao of Star Sports India presented in his thread on Twitter about the journey that even Dhoni’s blockbuster biopic couldn’t feature. I couldn’t resist sharing his thread no. 31 which described the farewell Dhoni bid to his then captain who backed up his ability and trusted his skills even after his regular initial failures.
The producer and Analyst Bhalerao has made such a valuable threads that his no. 18 that described how Ganguly spotted a talent in 2005 when he made Dhoni to open in a domestic trophy just before the ODI series against Pakistan. Dhoni scored 102* off 96 balls.
That actually was the significant innings which made Ganguly promote him at no. 3 and rest we all know is history. This makes Sarang’s two threads 18 and 31 standout as how Dhoni complemented his captain by asking him to take control in few overs of his last international game.
A payback to what made a turn around for a boy who dared to touch horizons of the game learned to excel his skills and mentality as time went on.
Whenever people will remember Dhoni in the coming years, classics and hall of fame will induct his achievements as a captain to have won ICC T20 World Cup, 2011 50 Over World Cup, 2013 Champions Trophy.
People will remember him as a captain that took India to the Pinnacle of rankings in the ICC points table of Test and Limited Over International cricket.
But the real significance of Dhoni is creating that aura for the newcomers in the team by handing over the trophies and making them feel they always belonged there in the middle of everything.
The International teams like West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and even Australia felt a huge task when it came to transitioning from the previous generation to the current generation. But with Dhoni, it wasn’t something that everybody could feel.
The way Dhoni paved a swift way for Virat Kohli, transformed Rohit Sharma by making him bat at the top of the order like Ganguly did that in Dhoni’s career and groomed Ashwin, as well as Sir Jadeja, were the significant steps for the new breed of the team in the International arena.
The turnaround he could read as the leader behind the stumps by making Chahal and Kuldeep forces to reckon with, made Ishant bowl bouncers when nothing was going his way at the famous win at Lords, that significant run out of Mushfiqur Rahim with one glove off and some exhilarating run-outs and inhuman stumpings add to his premium assets to the Indian Cricket.
With all the delays in taking DRS by the board, Dhoni made DRS as Dhoni Review System by being street smart when it came to reviews and challenging an on-field call.
With Dhoni you won’t just get the Thalla power that he often displayed in his romance with the Chennai Super Kings and will continue for more years to come.
The whistle Podu innings came along with some outstanding running between the wickets and taking the game to deep for the opponents where mistakes were made to occur by his smart brain.
Harsha Bhogle explained it well in his farewell video and article he shared which described how silently Dhoni escaped the stardom and how well we don’t know what Dhoni is all about.
I personally recommend going through all the 50 tweets thread of Sarang Bhalerao to understand the significance of Dhoni and an inspiring journey that taught us to duck bouncers but only to an extent. Whenever bouncers were there to be hit then hit it like Dhoni in a similar way like we used to chant bend it like Beckham in the ’90s.
I standby his last Tweet of the thread where Bhalerao that team India must retire jersey no. 7 like they did with jersey no. 10 after the great Sachin Tendulkar bid adieu to International Cricket.
With an eye on another IPL trophy and with his little brother Chinna Thalla Suresh Raina joined him in his retirement journey, the no.7 marked jersey must be framed and put in the nook and corners of every cricket stadium in the world to show that the jersey wasn’t mere a T shirt but a uniform worn by a champion son of a nation that had all the variety in the diversities.
Our sweet tribute to a soldier of a nation who was much more than a gentleman of the game. A real ambassador of cricket and second to none. Enjoy your 2nd innings Mahi. Thank you for all the inspiration and entertainment to the cricketing and the non-cricketing world.