MS Dhoni played his final game for India 13 months ago but the simple announcement of his international retirement on Saturday nevertheless sparked an outpouring of admiration for what was a remarkable career on the world stage.
The 39-year-old former captain led India to all three white-ball titles and the No 1 Test ranking – a trophy collection unrivalled in the modern era – all while keeping wicket and delivering countless match-winning performances as a swashbuckling batsman.
A master of the run chase whose place in Indian hearts was cemented on a heady Mumbai evening in 2011 when his soaring six claimed the World Cup on home soil, Dhoni kept it simple when he told his 27.3m Instagram followers: “Thanks a lot for ur love and support mthroughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired.”
In enigmatic fashion the news still needed precise confirmation over the terms of departure but it followed that Dhoni will indeed still lead Chennai SuperKings in the upcoming and delayed Indian Premier League that is being staged in the United Arab Emirates from next month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dhoni has steered the franchise to the title three times in 2010, 2011 and 2018, as well as two titles in the now defunct T20 Champions League, and it would be in keeping with his life’s script – one that has already produced a Bollywood biopic and earned him a vast fortune from cricket and endorsements – were another trophy to follow.
Virat Kohli, who took over the Test captaincy of India from Dhoni in late 2014, led a swathe of tributes when tweeting: “What you’ve done for the country will always remain in everyone’s heart but the mutual respect and warmth I’ve received from you will always stay in mine. The world has seen achievements, I’ve seen the person. Thanks for everything skip. I tip my hat to you.”
Sachin Tendulkar wrote: “Your contribution to Indian cricket has been immense. Winning the 2011 World Cup together has been the best moment of my life. Wishing you and your family all the very best for your 2nd innings.”
Making his international debut in 2004, Dhoni played 535 times for India across all formats, amassing 17,092 runs and scoring 15 centuries. His one-day batting accounted for 10,773 of these at an average of 50.57, a number that jumped to 102 in successful chases when, as an ice-cold finisher, he was not out an unmatched 47 times.
As well as the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni arguably lit the fuse of the IPL when he led India to the World T20 in 2007, and in 2013 he completed the white-ball trophy hat-trick with the 2013 Champions Trophy in England.
After he had been ppointed Test captain in 2008, India rose to No1 the following year and remained on top for 21 months.
His final innings for his country was in last year’s World Cup semi-final at Old Trafford – run out for 50 by Martin Guptill’s direct hit as eventual runners-up New Zealand pulled off an upset – but that won’t be the Dhoni that his army of supporters remember.