Why shouldn't Virat Kohli retire?
MS Dhoni's retirement leaves a void in world cricket
The uncertainties leading to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's resignation will be forgotten soon enough, and what remains are the certainties and pride of achievement over the years.
Should he have retired earlier? Or should he at least have cleaned the air sooner?
It does not matter. Dhoni wasn't forced to make it easier for everyone else, especially those whose job it is to keep careers tidy and move on to the next big thing.
It is likely that Dhoni will continue to play in the IPL. It's a tournament that he enjoys and plays for a team that he loves and whose fans return their love many times over.
A man who has played 90 tests, 350 one-dayers and 98 T20s will of course be missed.
Not only is this the most successful captain in the country, but it brings India to No. 1 and leads it after 28 years (2011), the T20 worlds (2007), the IPL revolution and the Champions Trophy (2013).
He's one of the greats in white ball cricket. His 84 undefeated innings have increased his one-day internationals average over 50. Only Ricky Ponting has led his Team Australia to further victories. Dhoni has won more games than any other captain in T20 internationals.
He led India in most tests, 60, and was only recently overtaken as the most successful by Virat Kohli.
Dhoni's reign had a profound impact on Indian cricket, and not just in terms of statistics.
He rose from what was then the backwater of Indian cricket - the eastern town of Ranchi - and continued the work of a predecessor, Sourav Ganguly, who turned to the non-traditional centers of cricket and discovered players of international standard.
Dhoni's ascension to captaincy continued a process that had begun with the aristocrats - the maharajas and nawabs - who in the early years led the bourgeois gamblers (often bankers) who followed, and then the small-town talent who spread the game. In a way, this reflects the evolution of Indian society itself.
He was eight when Sachin Tendulkar made his test debut, and within months of his acquisition, Tendulkar said, “I am delighted with the way Dhoni has acted. He's a balanced guy with a sharp mind. "
Dhoni was easily accepted by the seniors, a tribute to his potential and fairness.
He learned from his predecessors. By Rahul Dravid, under whom he played 19 Tests, and Anil Kumble, under whom he played 10. These two men from the southern state of Karnataka brought with them rare intelligence, tactical skills, and man-management skills. “I want a team,” Dhoni once said, “that can stand in front of an advancing truck.” And he worked to build such a team.
As a gamer, the amazing thing about Dhoni was what might look inappropriate on another gamer, even a gimmick that worked well for him.
Syed Kirmani initially said he lacked “copybook basics” as a wicketkeeper and criticized his habit of standing on his heels to get the ball instead of on his toes. The corkscrew on-drive or "helicopter" shot was unique to Dhoni. It was seldom imitated because it was inimitable.
Retirement is a difficult thing for both the player and his team.
In the first test after Sunil Gavaskar's resignation, India was left out of the West Indies for 75 and lost five wickets. It was another 19 tests before India had a centuries-long inaugural partnership. That's one side of the coin.
Here's the other: After Tendulkar was caught slipping in his final Test innings, new batsman Virat Kohli hit the next ball for four.
The symbolism was inevitable. The king is dead, long live the king.
As Dhoni prepares to leave the international scene, he can take comfort that his successors are already in place.
He's leaving Indian cricket in a good place - back as the best team in the world with a captain who is just as hot (if you can forgive the phrase) as he was cool but just as successful; and new wicketkeepers ready to take over.
He is missed because of his remarkable self-control, his ability to change the pace of a game by either sustained hitting or somber defense, and his way of encouraging the bowlers, especially the weirdos, behind the gates.
During the second half of his career, he seemed to have eyes on the back of his head at times, with the ability to run the batsman out behind him without looking at the stumps.
He also patented a way to avoid recoil by either taking the edge off the bat or the throw off the field without wasting time pulling his hands back with the ball. It is a significant contribution to the art of wicket keeping. Everything that saves time.
In 15 years Dhoni played 538 internationals, scored over 17,000 runs, an average of 45 with a hit rate of almost 80, held 634 catches and performed 195 stumpings.
Only five players in the game's history have played more international matches; Only one of them was a wicketkeeper, and none of them led in as many games as Dhoni.
His boots will be difficult to fill. But Dhoni's legacy goes beyond numbers and reflects the arc of India's social transformation.
This includes the confidence he has shown for large, previously ignored sections of the population, and the old-fashioned dignity and respect he has shown for the game and its players.
Suresh Menon is editor of Wisden India Cricketers ‘Almanack
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