Dhoni fangirl
Great players will come and go, but there will never be another MS Dhoni © Getty Images

It has been a while since I made use of my laptop to do something other than watch a movie or a television show. There is a specific reason behind this: nothing has compelled me to let my words do the talking, straight from my heart, the way it did today. This is not a critical piece by a writer but a page from the diary of a fangirl of a man, who used to be the most admired captains of a national cricket team in the world, MS Dhoni. Yes, I have already started referring Dhoni as the captain in the past tense.

I have been a die-hard Dhoni fan before I could understand the game itself. Blame it on the teenage (or hormones), I was attracted to the long-haired and fearless young man rather than the cricketer. The way he would send the ball into the crowd, sprint between the wickets, and keep them would make me fall in love with him.

Dhoni was no Sachin Tendulkar, who would be regarded as a run-machine; let alone be as elegant as VVS Laxman or as defiant as Rahul Dravid. Dhoni was bold. He let his bat express himself rather than words.

Dhoni is that player who would rebuild the Lego house after it had been knocked down. Dhoni is that resourceful batsman, who could remain composed when the team required him to level the field before unleashing those huge sixes. He was Dhoni, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wait, did that sound like James Bond?).

Carving a niche for himself as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Dhoni progressed to leading the national team in the shorter formats in 2007. Test captaincy was a natural progression. He experimented, failed, improvised, eventually cracking the code of how to make individuals play as a team and get results, be it at home or overseas.

The records and accolades speak for themselves. Under his leadership in 199 ODIs, India won 110 and lost 74. Of the 72 T20Is he captained, India emerged victorious in 41 and lost 28. He was India’s most successful captain, winning the 2007 World T20 in South Africa, the 2011 World Cup in India, and the 2013 Champions Trophy in England. In fact, he is the only captain to win all three ICC trophies. With 27 wins, 18 defeats, and 15 draws under his belt as the skipper, Dhoni was also India’s most prolific Test captain.

Make no mistake. I never undermine records and trophies. However, I believe that the people working in the background, rather than the ones performing with distinction, are the ones who make the victories more special. My heart would go out to that one man who would rise up to the occasion and contribute that 10%, the nudge, at the very end that mattered for the ship to finally arrive at the shore. And that person would, most of the time, be Dhoni — the last man standing with the weight of finishing the game and a cricket-crazy nation’s hopes on his shoulders.

From the unorthodox, hard-hitting, young boy, MS Dhoni grew into calm, multi-faceted, responsible man. Can you blame me for defending him against all the criticisms thrown at him each time India lost a match? He was the anchor India yearned for.

Though he will still be around to be picked as part of the 11-member team, Dhoni will have to compete with the other wicketkeeper-batsman in the run. He will not be calling the shots anymore, and that is what hurts the most. Not his sudden resignation, not once but twice now, but his decision of taking away the “watching-him-play-for-the-last-time-as-a-player-or-the-captain” feeling.

Dhoni did not let us savour the last innings he played in whites; nor did we imagine that the India–New Zealand ODI, at Visakhapatnam on October 29, 2016 (no, I did not have to look that up; I will never need to), would be his last as the captain of the Indian cricket team.

But as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. Speaking for myself and for every fan who grew up in the Dhonian era, let us celebrate the successful closing of a chapter in the illustrious life of MS Dhoni, and hope that we get to watch him play like his old self. Interesting times lay ahead, but one fact stands absolute — great players will come and go, but there will never be another MS Dhoni.