Leave when people ask why and not why not.
I have often pondered this thought about sportspersons deciding to call it a day. Be it Sachin’s prolonged end, Dravid’s hasty exit or Federer’s continuing struggles, it is a conundrum every athlete goes through as their success at the top of the sport wanes. It is understandable, this struggle. At the highest level, the pressure of performance, fame and adulation of supporters can give you an adrenaline rush that compares with few others in life. Add the financial benefits and every athlete feels the need to stay in the sport as long as possible. How long is too long? In my opinion, every athlete should be given the freedom to choose when they want to walk away from the game, however doesn’t it make sense to walk away at the top? If only every sportsperson was able to accept their impending decline, to step away.
This is what makes MS Dhoni a special sportsperson. Be it the day he announced himself as the long haired swashbuckler in Vizag or his swagger while leading his team to all the cricketing honours achievable, the one common thread – doing it on his terms. It is something that defined the way he went about not just the game, but his life as well. His public admission of treating national cricket as a regular job and the desire to serve in the armed forces were not something commonly seen among sporting superstars. The one true charming quality of MSD has been his ability to focus on team glory sacrificing personal milestones through his captaincy career – be it for India or for his franchise teams. Along with his street smarts, this has etched his name as one of the greatest leaders in sporting history.
It was not a big surprise to the MSD fan that he resigned from captaincy the way he did – no fuss, practical and simple. There was no time to celebrate or dwell on his success, MSD the person wouldn’t want that as it would take away from the next task at hand for Indian cricket. Ever the pragmatist, you can almost imagine Dhoni drawing this decision out on a whiteboard. This is why it makes sense.
- Virat Kohli has seamlessly taken over test captaincy to lead India into the next chapter of its cricketing journey. Recent success abroad and home for the Indian team under Kohli seems to have vindicated MSD’s decision of retiring from test matches last year mid series in Australia. Further proof of his ability to handle the dual pressure of being the batting talisman as well as being captain.
- With the current cricket season for India packed with test matches, MSD spends most of his time away from the national team, which is not the most ideal situation for a captain. This could have resulted in a power vaccum when he does return to the limited overs squad as captain. Keeping the future calendar in mind, having a single figure of leadership leading the team makes sense.
- At the twilight of his career, MSD can now return to the original finisher role which he has made famous over the years. He is easily the best wicketkeeper batsman in the world and along with an established role at no.4, we could see MSD play till the 2017 Champions Trophy at least if not the World Cup in 2019. The freedom which entails this decision could be the best gift for Indian cricket.
Sans the long hair, but still carrying the swagger which made us fall in love with MSD. This finally could be the second chapter for MSD the player, something he gave up a decade ago to serve his country at the time of his calling.
Here is to Mahi – The guy who has made every gully cricketer dream.