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Dhoni retires: Legend's impact on Indian cricket beyond numbers

Even in retirement, Dhoni reiterated what he stood for throughout his career - no flashy press conference, no extensive press release, no emotional thank you speech; just a two line Instagram post and that's it... the game goes on.

It is widely accepted that it was former captain Sourav Ganguly who inculcated the winning mindset in Team India. What MS Dhoni did was to take it a step further.

It is true that he got a team which had several complete players handed over to him by Ganguly. But, Dhoni instilled the belief in the team that winning was no big deal, that India was supposed to win, more often than not.

It was the 4th match of the CB series on the India tour of Australia in 2008. India had dismissed Australia for just 159 on the back of a 4-wicket haul from Ishant Sharma and a 3-fer from S Sreesanth. With 10 runs to win, Dhoni called for a needless glove change.

The message delivered to the dressing room was that there was no need to celebrate vehemently once the win was achieved. He then gave directions to Rohit Sharma, who was batting alongside him, to shake hands confidently with the Aussies after the victory and not show even a hint of excitement.

The idea behind all this was that Dhoni did not want it to seem like an upset. Yes, our bowlers dismissed you for 159 and we won the game by 5 wickets. It was no big deal. Dhoni wanted to hit home the message that this was how it was supposed to happen, that this was the new order.

This is just one of many ways in which he nurtured the psychology of the Indian cricketers of his generation and taught them a few crucial life lessons along the way.

When the win was achieved in the aforementioned game, Dhoni was unbeaten on 17 off 54 deliveries, batting at a strike rate of 31.48. The victory finally came on the last ball of the 46th over.

This was another of Dhoni's tactics which amazed many. Despite possessing the destructive game, he did not mind batting in the test match mode when the situation demanded him to do so, even in white-ball cricket. Some may argue he went overboard with the idea, but this is how he liked to approach the game.

His philosophy has always been to take the match as deep as possible during the chase. Dhoni feels that in that situation, the pressure on the bowler is equivalent to that on the batsman regardless of the margin between the runs required and balls remaining. It is only then that the battle between bat and ball can take place, on a plain playing field. The former captain backed himself to emerge victorious nine times out of 10 from such pressure situations. To his credit, he did succeed far more often than he didn't.

Dhoni captained India in 200 ODIs, out of which the team won 110 and lost 74. Even if we keep the captaincy aspect aside, which was undoubtedly instrumental to India's success during his career, Dhoni averaged over 50 in ODI cricket and scored over 10,000 runs from 350 ODI matches at a strike rate of 87.56, with 10 centuries and 73 half-centuries.

Given that he batted at 6 (plus minus 1) through most of his career, the stats become all the more impressive as it is not common for batsmen not batting in the top order to have such phenomenal numbers. In test cricket as well, he finished with a handy average of 38 and became the first and the only Indian wicketkeeper to score a test double.

But Captain Cool, as he will always be referred to as, had a lot more to give beyond these numbers. When Chennai Super Kings beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets in the final of IPL 2018 to lift their third IPL trophy (all under Dhoni - he is the most successful IPL captain behind Rohit Sharma) upon their return to the competition, the entire team ran onto the field to celebrate the victory. On the contrary, Dhoni did not show any overt emotions.

This is definitely linked to the aforementioned tactic but also became second nature for Dhoni as his career went on.

Dhoni never batted by the book; neither did he captain by it. The move to hand Joginder Sharma the last over in the 2007 T20 World Cup which brought India their second ICC trophy and the decision to promote himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the final of the 2011 World Cup which brought India their second ODI World Cup are all manifestations of Dhoni's bigger game plan as a cricketer.

Even in retirement, he reiterated what he stood for throughout his career - no flashy press conference, no extensive press release, no emotional thank you speech; just a two line Instagram post and that's it... the game goes on.


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