There is something about Kharagpur that is different. There is Air, Water, Soil, Railways Colony, IIT, old markets, cycle rickshaws, grounds, greenery, muggy summers, thunderstorms, cold winters, marshlands and then there is the long railway platform. It’s just another rusty and sleepy town in the eastern Indian country landscape. Landing on that long platform to start a career is common to batches of engineers who shaped the future of the country and world. Vinod Gupta, Arjun Malhotra, Arun Sarin, Suhas Patil, Sunder Pitchai, Anand Deshpande: just to name a very few among scores of success stories across the sectors. On this railway platform, another young man started his journey and what journey was it! Yes, you are right: M S Dhoni is the name. Ranchi takes credit but it’s Kharagpur that made him some ways…
Proud to say I share this Kharagpur connection to MSD and the great names mentioned above. My own memories of MSD started in his debut match when he ran himself out against Bangladesh. He made his debut under Dada. They said that this new player with long hair was a big hitter. He really announced his arrival at the international stage with his innings of 148 against Pakistan. I had watched that innings as had to stay home. It was a day match and yes I liked his style of batting. It was uncomplicated. In Greg Chappell’s era, he was used flexibly as a batsman up and down the order. Those were the days of flexible power plays. Intelligent guy (again Kharagpur effect maybe) like Dhoni used that to his advantage.
Remember Jaipur innings of 183 in a winning chase. Then under Dravid’s leadership, we won big chases in the ODIs. I also remember his innings in tests and ODI in Pak He received a lot of flak for his shot during the test loss vs England at Mumbai at that time. His place in the test scheme of things was questioned. He was part of test wins at Jo’berg, Nottingham, and featured also in a saving cause at Lords and he was efficient as a keeper.
Then the 2007 T20WC changed everything. He gained status and entered into household folklores be it a ‘bowl out’ win, 6 sixes, and that famous catch by Sreesanth. Then there was the infamous and racially charged Australian tour where we won ODIs and Perth test. The era between 07 t20 WC and 11 CWC was marked by a change in captaincy and retirement of stalwarts except for Sachin. He had a bad patch as test captain with disastrous Eng and Aus tours. In 2014 he announced test retirement. While the ODI captaincy journey rose from winning meaningless bilateral series, some triangular wins and peaking at CWC and CT wins. I saw him live during WorldCup 11. World Cup win was a magical moment. Another downside was the failure in the T20 World cups after the inaugural one. To date the best, we could do was a runner-up position.
The next phase was under the captainship of Kohli in limited-overs cricket. He managed a few incredible performances. But then as a batsman, there was a steep decline, and he had curious WC 2019 where he played his last innings again running himself out and breaking a billion dreams. His IPL presence was colossal. He is attributed to the success of CSK despite having a very senior team after CSK returned after a ban. He played with the Pune franchise and led it to the finals.
His memories cannot be complete without mentioning a few things I don’t like. I could not comprehend a few things: his world cup 2019 approach, his favoritism to a certain set of players, and the treatment of seniors. Though we don’t know the truth there is room for speculation that he may have been involved in all the above given his big say in team selection always. He should have led from the front with batting no 4 in WC 19 but we really don’t know if it was Kohli or was he himself involved in this bizarre decision-making holding himself back in the semifinal. His approach in the league match vs England also had room for self-doubt. Did he retire too late? But these are just side notes. Winner of two world cups, champion trophy, and world no 1 test team captain has done much more right than few wrongs in his career.
All these memories have enriched our lives. But also Dhoni as a person has much to offer to enrich our individual thought process and our art of living. The best thing we learn from Dhoni is to keep it simple and keep the right perspective of the larger picture in life. And there are always things beyond our control. Strive for excellence as he did in fitness, wicket-keeping, and batting. Always keep thinking. It’s not about talent only but making the right choices. The simplicity of the approach helps him decide. During the world cup final in Mumbai, facing Murali would have been tough for a left-hander like Yuvraj so he decided to bat ahead. The lack of pace of Joginder will make Misbah forcing the issue through shot selection. He got an over from expensive Ishant due to the available bounce during CT final. He ran out towards stumps to outrun Mustafizur. His presence of mind, concentration, positive outlook to get something out of every situation: are the few other exemplary points. Look at his calmness during defeat and victory. Leadership is exemplary. Wicket Keeping is miles ahead of available Indian and world competition. Batting is unconventional but effective.
And last week another legend has been added when he led CSK from difficult chase to a place in another final. As even his CSK journey as a player/leader is hinted to end with this final, his place in the annals of Indian Cricketing History remains unparalleled. And yes he remains a mentor of Indian Team in T20 World Cup UAE.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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