MS Dhoni announces international retirement

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni has announced his retirement from international cricket, bringing an end to the career of one of India’s greatest limited-overs cricketers, and its most successful captain. He is the only captain to lift all three ICC trophies – the World Cup, the T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy – and he also took India to the top of the ICC Test rankings.

Dhoni, 39, took to Instagram to make his announcement, putting up a slideshow of images from his career to the soundtrack of yesteryear singer Mukesh on his official account, with the caption: “Thanks – Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired.” (sic)

While the post didn’t specify it, it is expected that the retirement is only from international cricket, and Dhoni will play for Chennai Super Kings in the upcoming IPL 2020. He arrived in Chennai on Friday for Super Kings’ short camp at Chepauk ahead of IPL 2020, which will be played in the UAE from September 19 to November 10. Kasi Viswanathan, the Super Kings CEO, had recently said they expected him to play for the franchise even after retirement, till at least 2022.

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Earlier in January this year, N Srinivasan, the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, owners of the Super Kings franchise, said Dhoni would be retained by the team going into the mega auction for the 2021 IPL.

The announcement meant Dhoni’s final international match will remain his 350th ODI: the World Cup 2019 semi-final against New Zealand in July 2019. Dhoni made 50 off 72 balls in that game before being beaten by a rocket throw from Martin Guptill by inches as India exited the tournament. Dhoni hasn’t played any competitive cricket since and had only resumed proper training with Super Kings in March before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world.

Dhoni also played 90 Test matches and 98 Twenty20 internationals in an international career that began in December 2004. His statistics are incredible: more than 15,000 international runs across formats, 16 centuries and more than 800 victims as wicketkeeper.

But Dhoni’s legacy stretches far beyond the numbers: he will be remembered, as both batsman and captain, for his unconventional style and his ability to remain calm in the face of the heaviest pressure. That shone through in his biggest moment on the world stage, closing out the World Cup final in Mumbai in 2011 with a six to seal a match-winning 91*. In the other biggest match of his career, the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, he threw the ball to Joginder Sharma for the last over instead of the more experienced Harbhajan Singh.

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Dhoni’s life story was unusual enough to warrant a biopic. His roots, in the cricketing backwaters of Ranchi; his early working life as a ticket inspector on Indian Railways; and his burst on to the scene, long-haired, fearless and big-hitting. Within a couple of years he was captaining India’s fledgling Twenty20 side in the inaugural T20 World Cup; it was, famously, an event the BCCI did not take seriously. India’s win, however, changed world cricket by giving a huge fillip to the IPL – a tournament that was already in the works – and further establishing the BCCI as the pre-eminent global power.

In the years that followed, Dhoni’s India team had results on the field to match that financial clout. His captaincy was based on his cool, almost computer-like brain, and his ability to not allow the pressure of long-term results to determine his tactics. Along with coach Gary Kirsten, he put his senior performers in a comfortable place, and they returned the favour with some of their best years in international cricket.

The 2011 World Cup win was the peak of his career; after that, he had to contend with an ageing team and the toll that non-stop cricket was taking on his own body, especially his back. His batting changed and he cut down on the pyrotechnics for a more calculated approach to batting, especially when among the tail. Towards the end of his career, though, he came in for criticism as his batting slowed down, something that came to the fore during the 2019 World Cup defeat against England in the World Cup. In a chase of 338, Dhoni managed 42 off 31 balls, with India eventually losing by 31 runs despite having five wickets in hand.

No appraisal of Dhoni would be complete without mentioning his formidable record in the IPL, where he will still be active. He’s been the face of the Chennai Super Kings franchise for its entire existence, either side of its two-year ban, leading them to three titles and five runner-up finishes. Dhoni also led Super Kings to the Champions League T20 titles in 2010 and 2014. He became so deeply associated with the city that he even became a co-owner of a Chennai-based football franchise.

More to follow…