• An Open Letter to MS Dhoni on the 36th birthday

    A very happy 36th birthday to you, Dhoni and celebrate it just the way you would celebrate another World Cup, in ice-calm and composed manner.

    MS Dhoni of India
    MS Dhoni of India poses with the Champions Trophy. (Photo by Christopher Lee-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

    Dear Mahendra Singh Dhoni,

    Luck has always favored the brave, and similarly, luck has always been on your side even when India has lost an important match. Forever, there are people in the crowd who have immensely shown their support for you, whether you are the skipper of the side or not. There is always this section of people, who keep picking you for the team selections, blaming you for the poor teams in the past.

    People have often compared you with the former captains regarding the overseas victory rate, but never will a true cricketing fan compare the teams in different eras. No captain has ever managed to get the massive applause and the standing ovation that you have received no matter the team has won or not.

    From an aspiring footballer to an inspiring cricketer, you have fulfilled all the roles that a man could ever in his life. From being yet another play in the Indian team, your batting stance and the style has caught the eyes of millions, who have tried to copy your style. Be it the helicopter shot over long-on or be it the powerful and vigorous drive that you execute on the off-side it has been just a blessing for Cricket fans. It would be shameful of me if I did not appreciate you for the massive transformation of the Indian team in the span of a decade.

    People have been in awe of your wicketkeeping for the out-of-the-box technique, which we have increasingly witnessed in the past few years where your no-look hits have caused many-a-dismissals. If your 183 runs were the beginning of the show, then your World Cup 2011 final innings would be the pinnacle of brilliance from Indian batsmen.

    Never have we seen a dedicated and a calm and composed skipper as you in international cricket. Cricket fans have often seen Australia’s Ricky Ponting as their idol, but there could only be one idol for the Indian fans when it comes to leading the side from the front, and that is none other than you.

    We all remember the first time that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gave you the opportunity to lead the side in the inaugural World T20, and you could not have made the country more proud. The way you dealt with the pressure, be it the group game against Pakistan where we won via the bowl-out or be it the finale of the tournament, where Joginder Sharma led us to a grandstand victory. You have often made the most difficult of decisions, and we salute you for that.

    Never before your captaincy have India won an ODI series down under, but you transformed the way the world saw India as a cricketing nation. It is not always for a player coming from a small part of the country, to become the skipper and lead the side to trophies, but with you, the case has been different. Every time you step on the field, you have always been professional, be it with the bat or with the gloves or with the post-match presentation speech where you have been the gentleman that cricket needs.

    People have often criticized you for the constant selection of Rohit Sharma, during the 2008 Commonwealth Bank series, but if it were not for you, then Rohit Sharma would never have got the extended run that he had due to which the right-handed batsman became one of World’s most sought-after player, but if it was not for you, Rohit might just have been another player in the arsenal. Virat Kohli grew in stature under your captaincy, and if there was a captain who didn’t give Kohli the opportunity, then he might not have become the World’s No.1 batsman.

    The 2011 World Cup, was not only an effort from the whole team but also it was won partly due to your never-ending brilliance on the field, be it with the decisions that you had to take which included coming ahead of the left-handed Yuvraj Singh to face the trickery of Muralitharan which in the end was vital to Team India’s victory. Soon after that, you once again showed your passion and vigour in the Indian Premier League, where you won the title with the Whistle Podu Machas twice.

    If it were not for you, Chepauk would not have roared hard. The never-ending appreciation that you received starting from Kanyakumari to Kashmir shows how worthy you are to us. The times when you led the Chennai Super Kings at the den, was a delightful experience for all the supporters, which includes me. There were days where the supporters came in flocking to the ground just to see you bat and hit the winning shot over the boundary yet again.

    In a country of 1.2 billion people, there is always room for criticism, but the way you have dealt with it makes you one apart from the others. Just before the 2013 edition of the Champions Trophy, there were questions raised at the potential of the team to lift the trophy, but if not for the decisions you took in the final, England would have walked home with an ICC trophy. That was one rare occasion when we saw the emotion drop down from the face of the ever-so-cool man, who has often been used as a synonym for Cucumber.

    The day you stepped down from the longest format of the game after the drawn Test against Australia, there was a sudden wave of shock in the country, where including me, people were sad with your decision. But little did we read the game in the same wavelength as you do. The way you paved the way for the youngsters to play is a lesson for most of the cricketers, who block the youngster’s opportunity.

    Soon after the 2015 World Cup exit at the semi-final stage, the fingers once again pointed at you saying that your decisions were not right, but little do the people realize the magnitude of the stage. The way you dealt with the Press and the Media has been nothing short of immaculate, be it when you said that there are more years of cricket in you when the Australian Journalist questioned you, or be it when the media back home criticized you for the decisions you took during the game.

    From then, the way you have dealt with the issues of captaincy, resigning from it has been an inspiring one. Virat Kohli, since then has had the pressure of leading the side, but never have you stopped giving the skipper the word of advice during times of difficulty. Kohli has always said in the post-match interviews that you are still the pillar and the strength of the team.

    We, your fans have never questioned your keeping skills or your batting performances, it is natural that there have been some shortcomings in your batting in the recent past, but it is just a matter of time before you pick up the willow and tear down the bowler to the cow-corner.

    You have always been a role-model for the people, starting right from aspiring small-town youngsters who dream big to people who are already cricketers at the top level. From being a Railway ticket inspector, you emerged to be one of the most successful Indian captains.

    It is only a handful of people, who possess the powers and the skills of being ice-calm during the most pressured situations. The way you dedicate the victories has always been the one that every human being has been trying to learn from you. Even after winning everything for the country, your foot still stands firm on the ground with the shadow high above the planet.

    India would never be enough blessed to have another skipper like you, in the next decade or so. So let me take this opportunity, to thank you for your dedicated support to the Indian team, on and off the field. You deserve thorough respect from the billion fans, who have had a thousand reasons to smile just because you picked cricket over all other priorities of your life.

    A very happy 36th birthday to you Mahi and celebrate it just the way you would celebrate another World Cup, in ice-calm and composed manner. Lastly, I would want to thank you right from the bottom of 1.2 billion hearts for everything that you have, silently and selflessly done for Indian cricket.

    Yours sincerely,

    A Cricket Fan.