Opinion | Don’t expect a choreographed exit from MS Dhoni
Stand straight, click your heels and salute Hony Lt Col MS Dhoni, the wicketkeeper who stumped everyone. Amid intense speculation about his future, he has coolly disappeared for two months—having said not one word.
This left chairman of selectors MSK Prasad at a loss for words. When questioned about the status of India’s former skipper, he could only offer a weak answer: Retirement is a personal matter; legendary cricketers like MSD know when to retire.
This haze of uncertainty is so, so MSD. When he is batting, it is impossible to decipher his game plan. With balls running out and asking rate rising, he is annoyingly cool—pushing singles, knocking the ball around, taking the game ‘deep’. Yet, just as desperation sets in, he turns red hot to ‘finish’ the game.
It is not the first time people are in the dark about MSD’s next move. MSD does not talk to anyone—not the media, not his colleagues (remember, Laxman?), not the BCCI officials. The whisper in the cricket world is you can’t get MSD on the line, or get him to fall in line.
MSD speaks when he wants through mysterious smiles and chance remarks; usually it is his bat that does the talking. And even when bat stickers keep changing every few overs, as happened during the World Cup, a message is communicated. The whisper in the cricket world is you can detect general election trends, unravel monsoon patterns and the spinning deceptions of Warne and Murali but MSD is something else.
That’s because MSD plays with bat close to the body, cards always next to his chest. He is a batsman (career figures: 15,000 international runs) with a bowler’s mindset who believes in keeping others guessing . To the extent that when he abruptly abdicated the India captaincy (midway during a Test series in Australia, ending a 90-match career) players in the dressing room were shocked.
MSD hasn’t played first-class cricket in the last five years. He refused to turn up for his Jharkhand team making their maiden appearance in the Ranji semi-final but hung around to mentor them. His explanation: “Didn’t want to disturb the winning combination.”
MSD is a reluctant celebrity who dislikes attention. While others put themselves out in public space, offering slices of personal life to devoted followers, MSD switches off the supply of information. Absent from social media, one is clueless about his views on demonetisation, environment or global warming. Also, he is not one to post birthday greetings to cricket colleagues on Twitter.
This silence is as baffling as MSD’s batting position in India’s wobbly middle order. When a controversy raged about the ‘Balidaan’ logo on his keeping gloves, the BCCI-CoA, TV channels, political leaders and celebrities screamed support. While everyone was going nuts, there was a deafening silence from MSD.
Given his track record, it is unlikely MSD will make an announcement about his retirement and life after cricket. But this must be a tough call for him too, not something routine like moving third man back and calling mid-on up or moving point just a shade right for the uppish square cut.
Champion athletes are champions because they believe in themselves and trust their skills. MSD, 19 years since he journeyed from the obscure cricket outpost in Ranchi to dominate the sport, is a true legend, an all time great — the captain of India in 331 international matches and winner of multiple world cups.
Right through that remarkable career, MSD was celebrated for astute decision-making and sharp match awareness. The same skills will help him take an appropriate call at the appropriate time.
When Sachin Tendulkar chose to leave, his retirement was an emotional sendoff, which became a national event. As part of the extraordinary departure, a special coin was struck, postage stamp issued and he became the 43rd Indian to receive the Bharat Ratna.
It is unlikely MSD will permit or participate in such an elaborately choreographed exit.
More likely, he will play it in his typical understated style, and send a brief mail to the BCCI informing them about moving on.
Then jump on to his Harley Davidson Fatboy bike to, literally, walk away from it all.