Of all the anticipated yet unanticipated news this year has thrown at us, the most recent one came this Independence Day. MS Dhoni or ‘Captain Cool’ as we’ve better known him, announced his retirement via an Instagram post and it goes without saying that his many million fans and followers couldn’t hold back their emotions. The internet was flooded with fan art and thank you messages for one of the most successful Indian cricket captains ever. Of course, Dhoni’s cricketing genius was unmatched, however, go beyond his cricketing prowess and Dhoni, the calm, calm man had a lot more to him than meets the eye.
Towards the end of his career, many ‘experts’ questioned his place in the team, his relevance (given his age) and his expertise. Could he have been spared the unnecessary comments, of course, however, Dhoni being Dhoni took the high-road and chose to let people talk. He went about his life and when it was time for him to bid the game goodbye, he did it in Dhoni style – calm and collected as he peacefully announced his exit.
As MS Dhoni finishes off in style one last time, let’s look at 7 life lessons that his cricket career taught us:
GET OUT OF your comfort zone
Mahendra Singh Dhoni belongs to a humble family in Ranchi, where the prospect of bagging a government job was considered the highest aspiration. While he was pursuing his studies, he took on the job of a ticket collector at Kharagpur Station, just to make his father happy.
Soon, he realized that cricket was his true calling and if he wanted to pursue it seriously, he would have to spare a few hours practicing everyday. Since his job at the railyways took up most of his time, he decided to play cricket post his seven-hour work schedule. He practised for four hours daily and never missed a single session.
He would also finish his exams half an hour early, to make it in time for practice. Striking a balance between his profession and passion wasn’t easy, but MS Dhoni did it to realize his biggest dream – that of playing for the national cricket team.
Stay calm in the storm
Calmness is one of MS Dhoni’s strongest virtues, as was seen when he made tactful decisions on the field while shouldering the expectations of a billion people. During the World Cup Finals of 2011, for instance, India lost two wickets earlier than expected and this pressure was redirected at MS Dhoni.
He remained composed in the face of this challenge and finished the game with his classic helicopter shot. India lifted the World Cup Trophy after 28 years, thanks to Captain Cool and his amazing ability to disassociate from the noise around him and stay focused on his game.
Sachin Tendulkar once said that MS Dhoni is the best captain to play under, mainly because his ability to handle pressure is incredible. In response to the compliment, Dhoni said, “It’s like having 100 kgs put over you. After that, even if you put a mountain, it will not make a difference.” With experience, Dhoni claims to have learned how to get out of difficult situations with a stable mind.
Trust your instincts
In the nascent stages of his cricketing career, MS Dhoni was asked to focus on wicket-keeping rather than batting. However, he felt like he should give the latter a shot and requested his coach for a promotion.
His self-belief gave the Indian team its most bankable run-maker. Another example of Dhoni’s instinctive decision-making was during the T-20 finals of 2007, when he sent an inexperienced bowler, Joginder Sharma, for the last over against Pakistan, instead of the obvious choice, Harbhajan Singh. While everyone thought this was a rather risky call, it worked in the team’s favour, as India won the match by 5 runs.
Work on your weaknesses
Instead of blaming a poor performance on the quality of the pitch, the weather conditions or the inadequacies of his teammates, Dhoni has always been the captain who self-introspects and has no qualms accepting his shortcomings.
For instance, during the Punjab vs Bihar match of U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy, Dhoni admitted his defeat to Yuvraj Singh, as he gave more importance to Yuvraj’s strengths than his own. This humility helped Dhoni get better at his game throughout his career.
Put the team before yourself
If you look at the photograph of the Indian team lifting the World Cup trophy in 2011, MS Dhoni was standing in a corner. He could’ve easily made everything about himself, as it was his helicopter shot that sealed the deal on India’s victory.
Instead, he considered the achievement to be a collective effort of all his team members and in the spirit of a true captain, allowed them to bask in the glory of this crowning success. Similarly, during the ICC T20 2007, ICC CT 2013 and other bilateral series (all of which were won under his captaincy), Dhoni handed over the trophy to a younger player and humbly moved to the side.
Never forget your roots
When Dhoni’s family did not see eye to eye with him on his dreams, his childhood friends Seemant Lohani and Paramjit Singh were always there for him, compensating for the lack of family support. They would ensure that Dhoni made it in time for his practice sessions and kept him focused on his game.
They also taught him the famous ‘helicopter shot’ that won India its World Cup trophy after 28 years. Even after Dhoni became a household name in India, he kept his loyal friends close and credited them, every step of the way, for making him who he is today.
Lose like a winner
MS Dhoni would let neither success nor failure get to his head. His state of mind was equanimous even after the greatest of victories and the most brutal defeats. Take, for example, the failure of World Cup 2007, which got agitated mobs to burn Dhoni’s effigies in his hometown, Ranchi.
Instead of letting these things get under his skin, Dhoni decided to spend his time doing productive things, like improve his batting techniques for the forthcoming matches.
Thank you, MS Dhoni, for taking the Indian Cricket Team to great heights. You will truly be missed!