Gut feeling and a sense of timing has always marked Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision making process in his illustrious captaincy stint and he once again showed that when he ‘stumped’ one and all with his decision to step down as skipper of India’s limited overs team.
No one knows whether Dhoni has read the poem ‘Invictus’ or watched Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman recite it in his deep baritone: “I am the Master of My fate, I am the Captain of My soul”.
The context of the poem may have been different but in spirit somewhere, Dhoni may find it eerily similar to his thought process leading up to the decision last night.
No Indian cricketer since Sunil Gavaskar showed such poise, grace and sense of foresight as the flamboyant cricketer from Jharkhand stepped down from the limited overs captaincy via a BCCI announcement yesterday.
When Gavaskar announced his decision to quit captaincy, it was after winning Benson and Hedges World Championship in 1985 and after scoring that epic 96 on a Chinnaswamy minefield in 1987, he called time on his illustrious career with people craving for more.
The most cliched statement that we hear from sportspersons is that “we don’t play for records” but then hardly a few believe in what they say.
But in Dhoni’s case, two instances would sum up his philosophy that he does not play for records. When he retired from Test cricket, he was 10 short of completing 100 matches for the country but in his heart he knew Virat Kohli was ready for the job. Dhoni went with his gut feeling.
Similarly, the first ODI against England on January 15 in Pune would have been his 200th match as captain but he would not bother. 90 and 199 are two telling numbers that tell the story. So, Dhoni did not care for records.
His decision gives Kohli exactly 30 months time to get his team ready for the next World Cup, but more so it shows that Dhoni always had the best interest of Indian cricket in mind.
With two World Cups (one 50-over and one T20) India won under his leadership, Dhoni will remain India’s greatest limited overs captain and perhaps among India’s top five ODI players along with Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Kapil Dev and Kohli.
Just like a film actor has some defining roles, Dhoni will be remembered for two decisions that made him the ‘Captain Cool’ for generations to come.
The first was giving Joginder Sharma the final over during inaugural T20 World Cup summit clash against Pakistan.
The second was promoting himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh and winning that 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai.
It was a man who had the guts and gumption to take decisions which could have gone awry and made him look silly.