It was the last over of the inaugural ICC World T20 finals. ‘India vs Pakistan’ it was and the stage couldn’t get any bigger. Tension was killing everyone in the stadium as well as millions watching it on TV. He had 2 options, go with the experience of Harbhajan Singh or with the medium pace of Joginder Sharma. He trusted his instincts and went with the latter. The critics started licking their lips, ready to pounce on their prey. 7 runs in the first 2 balls it was and they were all set but Sharma delivered when it mattered and India were crowned the World T20 Champions. You might have guessed whom I am talking about. If not, then picture this. ICC World Cup 2011, finals, ‘India vs SriLanka’, Sachin’s final World Cup and that too in a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium. The world’s biggest cricketing trophy was at stake. Chasing 275, India were struggling at 114-3. That is when he came out to the field padded up, surprising everyone. A match-winning 91* from 79 balls is what followed. His eyes lit up when he hit the winning shot, a six, a gentle smile appeared on his face. “…… finishes of in style, India lift the World Cup” exclaimed an emotional Ravi Shastri. The nation erupted with jubilance, our joy knew no bounds. He stood there still, smiling ever so calmly, soaking in all the cheers. When the team lifted the trophy, he stood there in a corner, barely visible, joyfully watching his team-mates celebrate. If you still don’t know whom I am talking about, you probably aren’t an Indian.
MAHENDRA SINGH DHONI had become a household name ever since he first burst onto the scene a decade back. Our bond with him only grew stronger since the baton of captaincy was passed on to him. Two world cups, a champion’s trophy and no. 1 ranking in test is what we achieved with him. He was not just the captain of the Indian Cricket Team, for us he was the captain of the masses. So used were we seeing him as the skipper that it was nothing short of a bitter shock for us when he finally decided to relinquish captaincy from ODIs and T20s as well a few weeks back.
So what exactly might have propelled him to take such a huge step especially when he had a good 2-3 years of cricket left in him. Was it entirely his decision or was it forced ? Whatever it was, it brought curtains to an era wherein Indian cricket was skippered by one of the best cricketing brains the game has ever seen.
Okay, first things first! Let us be frank, Virat Kohli has meteorically risen in the last few years. He has impressed even further since he was handed the test captaincy. And one obviously knew that the day was not far away when Kohli becomes the captain across all formats. Also traditionally, Indian Cricket has not been a huge fan of ‘split captaincy’. So when Dhoni realized that 2 power centres have developed in the dressing room, he decided to step down in order to avoid differences. Even in an interview Dhoni stated that, he wanted Virat to ease into the test -format as a skipper and once he had done that, it was just about waiting for the right time to spill the beans. Dhoni also admitted that he would always be present to give ideas to Kohli, assisting him in his new avatar. He also added that, the choice however was entirely upto Kohli about which one to accept and which one to reject and rightly so. Also this might allow Dhoni to express himself freely and we might be able to see Mahi of the past, the one who batted ultra-aggressively( can’t wait to see that). Just the same way Mohamed Azharuddin did so beautifully when he stepped down as the captain. Also he gets a chance to consolidate on his glove-work in which he is already so good at. So summing up all this, we might say that his decision to step down was not all that bad after-all. It might just be yet another master stroke from Dhoni.
But having said that, deep in our hearts we all know that we are never going to have a captain like Dhoni. We will miss that ever so reliable gut instincts of his which we had grown to trust. We will miss that sight of him shouting out field-positions from behind the stumps. We will miss that grin on his face and that sparkle in his eye in those mandatory talks with the captain during the post-match presentations. And above all, when India would be losing, we would miss saying this, “ Don’t worry pal, Dhoni might have got something in his head, we sure are gonna win this!”