Railways TT to ‘Captain Cool’: MS Dhoni’s Career, a Graphic Novel
Tracing the journey of a Ranchi boy who became one of India’s most loved cricketers.
“I don't regret anything in life. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Plenty of good things happened, difficult to pick one. It's been a journey for me, the ups and downs,” this is what MS Dhoni had said in his first press conference after relinquishing Team India captaincy in the shorter formats.
A little boy who was encouraged to try cricket after impressing with his goalkeeping skills, Mahendra Singh Dhoni aka ‘Mahi’ became the pride of his hometown Ranchi, and of his country, as he scaled great heights by becoming one of the top cricketers in the world.
Having scored over 17,000 Internationals runs in more than 570 games, the former India skipper has managed to win over generations of cricket fans in a career that’s spanned 16 years.
And on Saturday, 15 August, just as quietly as he operated throughout his career, MS Dhoni called time on his Team India career with a single, two line post on Instagram. ‘Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired (sic.)’.
As his fans and contemporaries come to grips with never seeing him in the India Blue again, here’s a look at the magical journey of a ‘small town boy’ who won the World over.
Ranji Debut at 18
Dhoni’s professional cricketing journey started as an 18-year-old when he made his debut for Bihar in the Ranji Trophy during the 1999-2000 season. He went on to score a 68 not out in the second innings of his debut match against Assam.
Dhoni finished the season with 283 runs in 5 matches. He scored his maiden first-class century while playing for Bihar against Bengal in the next season.
Meanwhile, from the next season, Dhoni started working as a Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) at Kharagpur railway station under South Eastern Railway in Midnapore (West), a district in West Bengal. He worked there till 2003.
Catching Dada’s Attention
While working as a TTE, Dhoni continued playing cricket from his state. But, instead of Bihar, he was now representing the new state of Jharkhand. His performances in the 2002-03 season included three half-centuries in the Ranji Trophy and a couple of half-centuries in the Deodhar Trophy. He started getting recognised as a hard-hitting lower order batsman.
Dhoni was part of the East Zone squad that won the Deodhar Trophy in the 2003-04 season and contributed 244 runs in 4 matches, (45) including a century (114) against Central zone.
Courtesy his domestic performances, Dhoni got an India A call up where he scored 362 runs in 6 innings at an average of 72.40. This included two centuries against Pakistan A. His performance in the series received attention from the then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright.
The Blue Cap
On 23 December 2004, Dhoni made his ODI debut against Bangladesh in Chittagong. Unfortunately, he got out for a duck after facing 1 ball. He was run out at the non-striker’s end. But, India went on to win the match by 11 runs.
Cementing His Place
After a few rough outings with little to show (0, 12, 7*, 3), Dhoni announced his arrival in International cricket with an ODI hundred. Dhoni is sent up the order to No 3 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam and proceeds to smash 148 off 123 balls with 15 fours and four sixes, setting the platform for India's 356/9. This was the first time an Indian wicketkeeper scores an ODI hundred.
A Test Special
After cementing his place in the ODI squad, Dhoni went on to conquer the longest format of the game. With India in trouble, at 281 for five, in reply to Pakistan's 588 in Faisalabad, Dhoni smashes 148 (153 balls) to help his team post 603. The Test ended in a draw but Dhoni again secured his place in the side, now in the Test format.
A Win for the Ages
After a disastrous outing in the 2007 ODI World Cup in West Indies, which saw India make a first-round exit, Dhoni is given the charge on a young Indian side for the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa.
And the wicket-keeper captain didn’t disappoint. India won the tournament by beating Pakistan in a thrilling final in Johannesburg. This was India’s first World Cup win after their triumph in 1983. Dhoni, the captain, had arrived!
In 2008, Dhoni leads India in a Test for the first time in Anil Kumble's absence. He goes on to win the match as India beat South Africa inside three days at Kanpur. In his second match as captain, Dhoni wins his first man-of-the-match award for his 92 and scores 68 not out in a 130-run win in the second Test against Australia at Mohali.
Finally, on 6 November 2008, he succeeds Kumble as the full-time skipper after the latter announces his retirement. India go on to beat Australia by 172 runs in Nagpur to win the series 2-0.
Top of the World
In 2009, Dhoni becomes only the second Indian captain in 41 years to win a Test series in New Zealand. Later that year, India beat Sri Lanka 2-0 in a Test series and in the process becomes the No 1 side in Tests. Another milestone for Dhoni as India becomes the top Test side for the first time in history under him.
CSK’s ‘Thala’ Brings Trophy Home
After playing in the final and the semi-final in the previous two seasons, Dhoni finally leads Chennai Super Kings to victory in the Indian Premier League. Chennai beat Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede as the Dhoni transcended from being the captain of Chennai Super Kings to ‘Thala’ for the entire Tamil Nadu.
In the same year, India lift the Asia Cup after a gap of 15 years under Dhoni, beating Sri Lanka by 81 runs in Dambulla. Another feather in Dhoni’s hat.
Sakshi Joins the Team
The year 2010 was a landmark year on the personal front for Dhoni. He got married to his girlfriend Sakshi Singh Rawat on 4 July 2010.
The Big Night
Probably the biggest achievement in Dhoni’s cricketing career – India won the World Cup after 28 years under him, with the skipper hitting the winning runs with a six into Mumbai’s night sky becoming one of the most iconic images in Indian sporting history.
Promoting himself up the order, Dhoni shrugs off his poor run in the tournament with the innings of his life: 91* off 79 balls. With this match winning knock, he joined an illustrious list of players who were awarded the Man-of-the match in a World Cup final.
Fours years into his limited-over captaincy, Dhoni suffered perhaps his most dismal year as skipper of the Indian team. After a one-match ban during the Test series against Australia, India failed to qualify for the final of the Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series. Then, in December, the ‘Men in Blue’ lost to Pakistan 1-2 in a three-match ODI series at home.
With a massive victory over Australia at Hyderabad, on 5 March, Dhoni surpassed Sourav Ganguly’s 21 wins to become India’s most successful Test captain.
A Historic Sweep
India beat England by 5 runs in the 2013 Champions Trophy final at Birmingham as Dhoni became the first captain to complete a clean sweep of the ICC trophies, having already won the 2007 World T20 and 2011 World Cup.
Lets Go of Tests
On 30 December 2014, Dhoni shocked the cricket fraternity and his fans by calling time on his Test career, right in the middle of the series against Australia.
Dhoni welcomed his daughter Ziva into the world on 6 February 2015. Only, while she was born in Gurgaon, the skipper was in Australia in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup, where India lost to Australia in the semis.
Virat Steps In
Taking his fans by surprise, as usual, Dhoni on 4 January 2017 announced his decision to step down from limited-overs captaincy, paving the way for Virat Kohli to take over in all three formats.
Back For The Win
The Chennai Super Kings, led by ‘Thala’ aka Dhoni, made a resounding comeback to the Indian Premier League in 2018. Returning after a two-year ban for corruption, the ‘Yellow Army’ lifted the trophy.
Three-time champions, three-time runner-ups and the only team to feature in the last four in every season they have participated in, the ‘Yellow Army’ made a spectacular comeback in 2018.
And, after the team served a two-year ban, Dhoni led his ‘Dad’s army’ of 30-plus players to the trophy, CSK’s third IPL title, that made them the most successful franchise in the league.
A Long Wait & A Final Goodbye
Playing what many believed would be his last 50-over World Cup, MS Dhoni was part of the Indian team that reached the semi-final of the 2019 event hosted by England and Wales. A disappointing loss to New Zealand ended India’s run and the visuals of a visibly upset Dhoni walking back to the dressing room, after getting run out on 50, haunted many a fan specially after the former skipper made himself unavailable for selection after returning to India.
He served in the Indian Army during his time off, made a few public appearances at promotional events, and was even spotted at Team India’s matches.
When asked about his comeback game, he jokingly told reporters to ask him in 2020.
And just like that, March rolled in and finally Dhoni was back in the nets in his CSK ‘Thala’ avatar.
But for a man whose destiny was written in the stars, the end came in a manner no one expected. The IPL was expected to be his springboard back into the Indian team for the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup that was supposed to be played in Australia later this year. But an unprecedented pandemic postponed the IPL and also the World Cup.
And just one day after he created a social media frenzy by making an appearance at the Ranchi airport – in his CSK yellow – to join his team for a pre-season camp, MS Dhoni posted a two-line update on Instagram to bid farewell to his India jersey.
India’s most successful captain, Captain Cool, Captain Fearless... now just a memory.
MS Dhoni, A Mentor Like No Other
(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark MS Dhoni's 40th birthday. It was first published on 6 July 2020.)
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