–Relinquishing CSK captaincy days before the start of IPL is classic MSD. It follows the template of being a renouncer who believes in tyaag (sacrifice) and liberation from worldly possessions. MSD, the centre of CSK’s universe, has magnanimously stepped back to let the sun shine on another CSK star.
But the selfless act is so typical of MSD – someone who writes his own script where the only constant is a sense of high drama and suspense. The breaking news all day has not been about Jadeja leading CSK, but about MSD walking towards a glorious sunset and 'picking' his successor.
MSD, unlike many of his contemporaries, has always controlled his destiny and has an intuitive grasp of staying ahead of the game. He gave up Test captaincy in the middle of an overseas tour, not bothering to inform coach Shastri or successor Kohli. He ended his Test career abruptly, only 10 short of 100 matches.
MSD is charmingly old-school cool and to colleagues, Mahi bhai was more of a caring elder brother than a skipper; a wise senior who had navigated the journey several times in the past.
MSD’s cricket is built on pillars of trust. He trusted experience even when the sport demanded youthful energy. He trusted players and gave them opportunity to succeed instead of waiting for them to fail. He trusted instinct – not data or match ups – and wasted little time on team meetings or strategy discussions. Above all, he trusted himself.
His cool demeanour is celebrated, but that is not the only admirable aspect of his personality.
MSD had the unique gift of extracting the best out of players and creating loyalty among those sharing a dressing room with him. MSD, the keeper caught the attention of the country – he connected with fans, inspired cricketers and became an ambassador of hope and possibility for youngsters dreaming big.
He is also a limited-edition celebrity whose aura is sustained by maintaining distance and rationing information. MSD lives behind carefully placed curtains and filters that restrict access. He doesn’t talk much, but lets his achievements speak. He stays in the background, yet stands out. He shuns publicity, but the media chases after him.
Instead of exposing himself to an information hungry world, MSD is intensely private, guards personal space and does not tolerate trespassers. Unlike others existing in a make believe bubble, MSD is grounded; a cricketer without any spin!
MSD’s magic rests on defying the normal, swimming and driving against traffic in a one-way lane. When others go ballistic on social media, MSD is absent as if to express disgust about this viral infection. While other public figures are manufactured products, MSD consistently rejects the crutches of contemporary stardom.
Yet, for all his laid-back attitude and celebrated reticence, MSD is not shy of making a loud statement. His love for the Army is worn on the sleeve and, occasionally, on his keeping gloves. In Rashtrapati Bhavan to receive the Padma Shri, Lt Col Dhoni marched like a soldier to deliver a crisp salute that would have gladdened instructors at IMA Dehradun.
Looking at MSD, as he slowly recedes into the background, one must stand straight to click the heels and salute. The Hony Lt Col used his power as captain/player/boss/mentor in a non-abrasive, non-assertive manner and stumped others by remaining silent. He didn’t talk to anyone – not the media, not colleagues, and not BCCI officials.
Apparently, he was an absolute master of doing his own thing and consulted nobody except himself. The whisper in the cricket world was "you couldn’t get MSD on the line, or get him to fall in line".
MSD carries the aura of mystery about him to the middle. When batting, it is impossible to decipher his game plan. With balls running out and asking rate rising, he is annoyingly pushing singles, knocking the ball around, taking the game 'deep'. Yet, just as desperation sets in, he turns red hot to ‘finish’ the game. MSD plays with the bat close to the body, cards always closer to his chest.
He is a batsman (career figures: 15,000 international runs) with a bowler’s mindset who believes in keeping others guessing.
Power for MSD was not a weapon but an instrument to achieve his objectives. He ran the Indian team singlehandedly, with an iron fist inside the soft keeping glove.
At CSK, Thala MSD was the final, and only, word. Now, in a sudden move, he has taken on a new role. Will he control the remote and run CSK? Not likely- that is not his style.
MSD will be remembered for winning World Cups and leading India (in 331 games) and CSK (to 4 IPL titles, including last year) with dignity and decency, rejecting fuss and fanfare. In the shrill noise of cricket, MSD played his own soft mellow tune.
Whenever he decides to call time on his career, tomorrow or the day after, it’s certain that he will do it casually, just drop the bomb and move on. With Dhoni there is no drama – just pure, practical common sense.
Maybe he will send a brief mail to the BCCI and then nonchalantly jump on to his favourite Harley Davidson Fatboy bike to kickoff another journey!