The MS Dhoni you know, the MS Dhoni we all know, the MS Dhoni perhaps no one knows
MS Dhoni retires: Dhoni was that boy-next-door whom everyone adored, loved to see in the neighbourhood but had very little idea of the complex and yet simple mechanisms of the man.
“Wo dekh rahe hai mujhe, tu marwayega bhai (He’s watching me, you’ll get me in trouble),” the fielder at the long-off fence told the 12th man. “Goggle pahne huye kis taraf dekhte hai pata bhi nahi chalta but ha dekha toh hoga (With goggles on, it’s difficult to say which way he’s looking but yes he must have noticed for sure),” was the reply. A ball later, came a wave of the hand from behind the stumps followed by a typical captain-like gesture to come up from the boundary. “Bas wahi ruk, ek kadam age aa sakta hai but peeche mat jana (Stand there, can take a step forward but not backwards).”
The date was March 15, 2017, the venue Delhi’s Palam Sports Complex, the occasion a Vijay Hazare Trophy quarter-final. The man who was asked to come up from the boundary was Jharkhand batsman Ishank Jaggi. The goggle-wearing captain who Jaggi feared might have ‘watched’ his uncalled for tete-e-tete was MS Dhoni.
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Boundary riders having an odd chat with reserve players while having a drink is a regular affair in cricket. Dhoni sure can’t be ‘watching’ his fielders for this. But Jaggi’s fears were because he had allowed Vidarbha to sneak a couple in the previous over. The reason? His constant chirping with the 12th man. He was right at the fence and slow off the blocks. Those who have covered as reporters or watched matches as spectators in the twin grounds at the Palam Sports Complex know there are no such grounds in the capital which allows a closer view of the action than it.
Despite the constant noise of flights landing and taking off at the adjacent airbase, Jaggi, who is a veteran first-class cricketer, was certain his little lapse of concentration will be penalised by Dhoni. But when and how he had no clue.
The obvious thing would have been a few stern words or a simple swap of fielding position. Dhoni had done neither. His solution of asking Jaggi to come up from the boundary made sure he can’t go back for quick drinks and exchange notes with the reserves in between deliveries. And for the record – Vidarbha weren’t able to take another double through the long-off area for the entire duration of that match.
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Those wondering whether Dhoni’s unique strictness was only reserved for Jaggi… There’s more. While walking back towards the dressing room in the innings break, Dhoni put his arm around the shoulder of Shasheem Rathour and said: “Mujhe toh itna paani kabhi nahi pilata tu (You never offer me this much water).” Yes, he was the one who was talking with Jaggi in the long-off boundary.
Jaggi, Rathour, and the reporters witness to this incident were all familiar with Dhoni’s ways of dealing with things but none of them could guess his next move.
Jaggi was adjudged Player of the Match for his unbeaten 41 in that low-scoring affair which Jharkhand won. When asked about the long-off boundary incident after the match, the right-hander had said, “When Mahi bhai joined me in the middle in our chase he said ‘we won’t lose this by a run, will we?’ That had motivated me so much. I’m glad I could stay there till the end with him.”
Despite being that towering figure that he is in international cricket, Dhoni had always remained close to Jharkhand cricketers and Jaggi is one of them but even he couldn’t give an idea about Dhoni’s moves.
To be honest no one could. Dhoni was that boy-next-door whom everyone adored, loved to see in the neighbourhood but had very little idea of the complex and yet simple mechanisms of the man. A lot was told – and will be in the future – about Dhoni and yet so much remains untold.
Also read: ‘MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh changed the concept of chasing in ODIs’: Ajit Agarkar
Everyone knew Dhoni’s like that little caged container of ice even during a volcanic eruption but no one knew how. His idea of taking the match as deep as the last over on most occasions was nothing new to his teammates, his opponents, the fans, the commentators, the reporters and yet he managed to surprise each and every one of them with something or the other at end of it. There was always that known unknown factor with Dhoni that made him so special, so successful and so respected.
When he walked back with anguish written all over his face in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, everyone knew - that was perhaps it. His retirement was a mere formality now but no one could say for certain how and when and in which manner.
The answers came on India’s 74th Independence Day in true MSD style. A four-minute seven seconds video summing up his entire journey laced with stills laid over the lyrics of an immortal Bollywood song shared on social media with just 16 words.
Was the announcement on the expected lines? Definitely. But like this? Perhaps not. Everyone knew his international career of close to 16 years but how many about the ‘pal do pal ka shayar?’