An instinctive player who charted his own course

16IN_LPN_MAHENDRA__2246053fMahendra Singh Dhoni, retired from Test Cricket on Tuesday.

Like a true leader, Dhoni owned up the failures, backed his mates and gave a new direction to Indian cricket

In choosing to walk away from Test cricket on his own terms, M.S. Dhoni has acted as M.S. Dhoni would!

Not the best of captains in the longer version of the game, he chose to leave a mark by retiring midway through the series on an overseas tour. When many would have loved to play another 10 Tests and attain a century of matches, Dhoni has passed on the mantle to Virat Kohli in a decision that clearly reflects his mindset — instinctive.

Recommended to the job by Sachin Tendulkar, and initially identified as the man for the future by Greg Chappell, this exciting batsman-keeper dominated the cricket field in his inimitable style. As a captain, he led by instinct. Quite like Kapil Dev.

Rustic in his batsmanship — the helicopter shot, whip off the pads or the swing far away from his body — he defied the coaching manual. He was not a graceful artist. He had his own way to counter the seam and swing in England, the bounce in South Africa, and the spin in the sub-continent.

Many times, he defied logic too. But, like a true leader, though defensive in the longer version of the game, Dhoni owned up the failures, backed his mates to the hilt and gave a new direction to Indian cricket.

Dhoni had his favourites, his weak and strong points. Who doesn’t? Sourav Ganguly broke the trend by giving a platform to the deserving and Dhoni encouraged players from unsung backgrounds.

Dhoni had a dismal record in Test cricket overseas, despite the presence of some legends. In accepting his failure to inspire the team, he has only underlined his characteristic reading of the situation. It was time to move on. Just as it was time to break in 10 years ago in a manner that reminded old timers of Dilip Vengsarkar, who blazed his way into the Indian team with a sensational assault in an Irani Cup match.

Many years later, it was the Vengsarkar-headed selection committee that decided to appoint him as India captain. “I was impressed with his body language, positive attitude and cricketing intelligence. And when Sachin and Rahul (Dravid) agreed, it strengthened my belief. But I thought he could have continued for one more year. He was still fit, ” said Vengsarkar.

Dhoni’s decision, that may have pre-empted his critics from drawing the knives out, could have also been prompted by a nagging back injury that was clearly hampering his on-field movement in all forms of the game.

His critics may believe he has deserted a sinking ship. He has also been accused of easing out the seniors from the squad, denying some deserving players and rooting for some mediocre players. But his fans would appreciate the fact that he did not chase records.

Dhoni certainly can be a case study for blazing like a meteor and picking the sunset of his Test career. Both on his terms!

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