The 2019 World Cup defeat to New Zealand will be remembered for more reasons than one in Indian cricket history, particularly because it was former captain MS Dhoni’s final international match in India colours. Dhoni was run-out while scoring a ‘back-to-the-wall’ try against Kane Williamson’s Kiwis in the last four, effectively ending India’s hopes. Team India head coach Ravi Shastri recalls ‘Captain Cool’ Dhoni walking back to the pavilion that day with a tear in his eye.
“There was nothing frazzled Dhoni. Captain Cool is a bit of a cliché now, but it’s still the best way to describe MS in many ways. The only time I saw a hint of disappointment on his face was after we lost to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals. “I could almost see a tear in his eye, of self-abnegation, that he should have been run out when so much depended on him,” Shastri wrote in his new book, ‘Stargazing: The Players in My Life.’
Dhoni finished his international career with 90 Tests, 350 ODIs, and 98 T20Is under his belt, but he was unconcerned about milestones. During his tenure, he was the only captain to win the T20 World Cup, the 50-over World Cup, and the ICC Champions Trophy.
The Chennai Super Kings captain abruptly announced his international retirement on August 15, 2020. His Test retirement was as shocking as his international retirement. “Shortly after the third Test in Melbourne in 2014, Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from Test cricket in the dressing room. The silence could have been severable with a knife. For a brief moment, not a single player shuffled their feet. “My jaw hit the floor,” Shastri recalls the day of Dhoni’s Test retirement.
“As one of the team’s top three fittest players, he would have the opportunity to improve his career stats if nothing else. True, he wasn’t getting any younger, but hinge wasn’t getting any younger either! “His decision simply did not make sense,” Shastri wrote of MSD’s retirement plans.
The former India all-rounder, who has written about a number of players in his book, went on to say that he tried to persuade the former India wicketkeeper to reconsider his decision. However, he believes Dhoni made the correct decision in sticking to it.
When Dhoni decided to hang up his boots, Shastri was the Indian team’s director of cricket. “All cricketers say milestones and landmarks don’t matter, but some do. I approached the subject in a roundabout way, looking for an opening to persuade him to reconsider. But MS’s tone was firm, and I refrained from pressing the issue any further. In retrospect, I believe his decision was correct; he was also brave and selfless,” Shastri wrote. “Giving up the world’s most powerful position in cricket couldn’t have been easy.”
When it came to his impact on Indian cricket, Shastri compared Dhoni to Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. “MS has had a massive impact on Indian cricket. In terms of multi-format excellence, he ranks alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev, according to Shastri.
Team India’s head coach concludes by saying that Dhoni is a huge inspiration for young people in India, particularly those from the “hinterlands.” It’s no surprise that the BCCI has decided to appoint him as the Indian team’s coach for the T20 World Cup next month.