Where would we be without sports commentators? Somewhere happy and peaceful? Perhaps.
Hello MSD, On Saturday, I got a text from my friend.
I couldn’t believe as it read, “Dude, Mahi (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) Retired.”
For a second, I went numb. Hoping it is a lie, I went online to double check, but alas!
It felt like an era over and the day quickly turned grey.
I went back to December 2004, when you, sporting those famous long hair, made the ODI debut at Chittagong, against Bangladesh.
You were run out on the first ball you faced, without scoring a run, and eventually the Indian team crawled to victory by 11 runs.
You scored 19 runs in next two innings, but the knocks were good enough to give a glimpse of the firepower you possess.
Within 12 months debuting, you starred with an unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka, 148 against Pakistan and a few 30+ scores.
You stamped your place in India’s ODI side and soon became a Test regular.
You averaged over 40 in 2005 and 2006 in the ODIs, and looked primed to play a key role in the 2007 ODI World Cup.
However, the campaign was a disaster, and questions were raised about your place in the ODI side.
You were not at your best in England and Ireland, and we were left surprised when you were selected over Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh to lead India in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa.
The team defied all odds and became the World Champions by defeating Pakistan in a nervy final at Johannesburg.
On the way to becoming world champions, our team also toppled the mighty Australians. That dismissal of Michael Clarke by Harbhajan Singh is etched in the memory even today.
You were intuitive yet shrewd with on-field choices.
In the same year, you took over the reigns off Rahul Dravid to become the ODI captain, and soon became the Test skipper.
Under your leadership, the Indian team started its ascent that culminated with us winning the 2011 ODI World Cup and becoming the world number one Test side.
Under your captaincy, the ODI side won the Commonwealth Bank Series (2008) in Australia and its first bilateral series in New Zealand (2009).
Meanwhile, your personal stock kept rising, as you won the ICC ODI Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, got conferred with India’s civilian awards, Padma shri and Padma Bhushan and currently occupy the rank of a honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian army.
With the emergence of Virat Kohli and after suffering some flak for being a defensive leader, you gave up on test captaincy, and immediately retired from the format.
You led our limited overs sides till January 2017.
Yet, you kept on giving your best in the ODIs- averaging just under 49 between 2017 to 2019.
You also starred in our team winning the ODI series in Australia last year, and performed commendable in New Zealand and against Australia at home.
While some wondered whether you were a closed chapter by the 2019 ODI World Cup, I hoped you become a middle order rock for the team.
You played your role to perfection as India bulldozed through the tournament.
In fact, at 273 runs, you finished the tournament with your highest aggregate in a single edition.
The fateful semifinal against New Zealand broke over a billion hearts and despite your and Ravindra Jadeja’s heroics, we lost by 18 runs.
Your runout by Martin Guptill was mourned by the entire nation as we were knocked out of the tournament.
That proved to be your last appearance in the national colors and now, you will never play for India again.
How poetic is it that in both, your debut and the last match for India, you were run out!
You represented and led the team by pride in the T20 format as well, captaining the side for 72 matches, winning 41 and losing 28.
After winning the inaugural World Cup, the Indian team reached one T20 World Cup final in 2014 and one semifinal in 2016 under your captaincy.
You scored 1617 runs in 85 T20I innings at an average of 37.60, and aggregated 4876 runs at 38.09 in 144 test innings.
However, your best came in the ODI format, as you accumulated 10,773 runs in 350 matches at 50.58.
You are ending your career as the greatest finisher in the limited overs cricket history.
Aside from being a champion cricketer, our bond with you goes beyond the cricket field.
You were one of the proudest servants of the Indian national cricket team, and taught us to be serial winners.
You made us realise a 28-year old dream as you lifted the 2011 World Cup trophy.
Not only the entire country, but you also made The God happy that day.
I don’t think any cricket fan would forget the tears of joy and the sheer elation on Sachin Tendulkar’s face as he reached the top of the world.
Whenever your teams won tournaments, you let the youngsters have the limelight on the dais to celebrate with the trophy, and preferred to stand in a corner.
Both, Kohli and Rohit Sharma have plucked that page off your book.
As former India test player, S Badrinath tweeted, you got the best out of players without asking, built the team without meetings, were humble when others crumbled, and were an epitome of simplicity.
You are a role model of entire India and showed that one can achieve anything by hardwork, along with mental and physical toughness.
I am going to watch you in the next month’s IPL, but the fact that you would never represent the national team is bitter to digest.
As current BCCI president and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has said (about you), every good thing comes to an end.
We are proud of everything you have done for the Indian cricket and while you have retired from the national duties, you will always stay close to our hearts.
Stay blessed champ, and thank you for all the memories.
Wish you all the best for your future endeavours.
A grateful cricket lover