India’s 2019 World Cup loss against New Zealand is etched in the minds of MS Dhoni fans as that was the final time the former captain donned the Indian jersey. The current Team India head coach Ravi Shastri remembered noticing ‘a tear in his eye’ as ‘Captain Cool’ walked back to the pavilion for the last time.
“Nothing frazzled Dhoni. ‘Captain Cool’ is something of a cliché now, but in many ways, still the aptest description for MS. The only time I saw a flicker of disappointment on his face was after we lost the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup to New Zealand. I could almost see a tear in his eye, of self-admonishment, that he should have been run out when so much depended on him,” Shastri writes in his new book, Stargazing: The Players in My Life.
Dhoni finished his international career with 90 Tests, 350 ODIs and 98 T20s. He also scored more than 10,000 runs in ODIs and was known as one of the best clutch players of his generation. He remains the only skipper to win T20 World Cup, ICC World Cup and Champions Trophy in his career.
His Test retirement came as abruptly as his international one. “Shortly after the third Test at Melbourne in 2014 was drawn, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his decision to retire from Test cricket know in the dressing room. The silence could have been cut with a knife. Not a single player so much as shuffled their feet for a while. My jaw hit the floor,” Shastri writes.
He further says that Dhoni was then still one of the top-three physically fittest players on the squad and would have had multiple opportunities to boost his career stats. “True, he wasn’t getting any younger, but the hinge wasn’t that old either! His decision just didn’t make sense.”
The Indian coach, a former all-rounder, adds that he had tried to convince Dhoni to reconsider his decision. However, Dhoni felt his time was up.
“All cricketers say landmarks and milestones don’t matter, but some do. I approached the issue in a roundabout way, probing for an opening to make him change his mind. But there was a firmness to MS’s tone that stopped me from pushing the matter any further. Looking back, I think his decision was correct; also, brave and selfless,” Shastri writes.
According to Shastri, Dhoni is in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev in terms of a player’s influence on the sport. “MS’s impact on Indian cricket has been enormous. As a player, he is in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev where multi-format excellence is concerned.”
Shastri concludes by saying that Dhoni continues to remain an inspiration for young cricketers of India and hence, the BCCI’s decision to appoint him as a mentor of the Indian team at the upcoming T20 world cup, makes sense.