Sydney: With the certain defeat staring in their faces, as Australia strangled India out of the World Cup, the flicker of hope still shined brightly and briefly as Indian skipper MS Dhoni tried to make a match of it. There were the quintessentially Dhoni shots down the ground. Four years ago, one such shot sealed the match for India on a warm Mumbai night.
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MS Dhoni. Pic/AFP
Last night at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it was too much even for this colossus of the game as the asking rate climbed to 16 runs per over, and he found himself short against a superb throw from Glenn Maxwell. A man whose ODI career has seen the highest of the highs, and redefined cool, didn't have enough in his weary body to complete a sharp single – another essential arsenal in Dhoni's ODI game.
Spread across three ODI world cups, Dhoni has transformed his game and his image from the dashing young buck who broke stereotypes to a thoughtful manager who chose his moments in the game to leave his imprint. From the disappointment of the first round exit in the Caribbean in 2007 to the semi-final exit in 2015, sandwiching the glory of 2011, he has seen it all. From being the new guy from India's cricketing backwaters to being a global sporting icon, and from taking over a team of veterans and leading a team of youngsters, he has been it all.
Dhoni's mantra has always been the "processes". Like a Monk, he told anyone that would listen that it is the processes that matter. In a result oriented business that modern day professional sport is, he refused to get bog down by the results and instead focussed on the processes. Even after a hefty defeat to the Aussies, he was keen on his pacemen remembering the lessons of this 4-month sojourn Down Under.
Walking in at 108 for 4, he relied on the processes that has become his second nature of taking his time, building a partnership before exploring the option of an onslaught. He tried to target Australia's 5th bowler Shane Watson, smearing over cover and launching him straight for sixes, but it was too little too late. When Maxwell's arm beat his legs, he knew he was done and so was India. But Dhoni's legacy would be that even against insurmountable odds, the Indian faithful held out hope as long as he was there.
The 2019 World Cup is a lifetime away in cricket terms and Dhoni will be 37. It is conceivable that he may not represent India in that but he avoided any talk of calling it a day. He said he would take a stock of his situation only at the end of T20 World Cup next year in India. For him, cricket has always been an avenue to explore his own worth as a player, captain and a team mate and playing the sport for the sheer joy of it.
"What people think about me as a player or what I have done, it doesn't really matter because I play for the enjoyment of the game" said Dhoni. He signed off from the 2015 World Cup reminding people that whenever he calls it a day, he still would be just as happy heading home to ride his bike. "The day I [decide to] pack my bags I pack it, and I'll be happy on my bike."