The Monk from Ranchi
23rd December 2004. India vs Bangladesh, A young man walks to the crease, his appearance was too shocking to go unnoticed, he raised eyebrows with the long colored hair which ran till above the shoulders. By the time everybody could have known who the new batsman is, he was run out and, on his way back to the pavilion.
Fast forward to 10th July 2019. India vs New Zealand, 2019 World Cup Semi-final, more than a billion eyes fixated on their television sets, it was the same guy from 2004 but not so young anymore, he was aging his hair now ran only up to his ears, this time he was carrying the burden of a nation with him, he went for a quick double and from nowhere Martin Guptill hit the bull’s eye. A billion hearts skipped their beats, a billion prayers were made when the decision was taken to the 3rd Umpire, a billion hearts were broken when the screen showed “Out”.
Image Credit: AFP | Dibyangshu Sarkar
The above was the story of a certain man from Ranchi, Jharkhand, wearing the jersey No.7. The man was a complete outsider of the Indian Cricket team. He did not come from a cricketing powerhouse city like Mumbai or Delhi. Jharkhand was not even a state and Ranchi was just a mining city in the state of Bihar! He rose against the odds. But how can one not notice talent like him?
His batting was not poetical, he did not have the elegant straight drives or the eye-pleasing cover drive. To some cricketing pandits, his batting was something like sinning. Not that he cared for it, when he was promoted on the fateful match against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam, he played like as if he owned that place, stamping his authority on the game.
There is an analogy, an average Indian cricket fan in the ’90s or the early ’00s switched off their television sets once they see the back of the great Sachin Tendulkar. Then came this man from Ranchi who made the same Indian fan hope the game is not over until he sees the back of #7!
He is always a mystical figure. He is a God to many and villain to some. You might not understand what he was thinking when he takes the game deep, now I come to think of it, it is about who blinks first, sometimes it was the opposition and sometimes it was the man himself.
He is a very different from the cricketing superstars our generation has seen. I mean with all the fame he has; he still finds comfort in spending time with his army regiment. He is known for his lusty blows with the bat, his hallmark helicopter strikes, and how can one forget his ability to run between the wickets and deceitful wicketkeeping skills!
His retirement was on cards, I mean everything must come to an end and he is no exception. But everybody was anxious about how this will come. And he surprised everyone because no one was expecting at this moment, maybe it would have been more acceptable after the IPL or as some might have hoped after the T20 World Cup next year.
But he surprised everyone with his decision like the one to give the last over to Joginder Sharma in T20 World Cup final or promoting himself up the order in the 2011 World Cup final or persisting with Ishant Sharma in 2013 Champions Trophy Final. I would not say he is above the game. But he is above numbers, logic, and tradition.
His retirement came just like that in a flashy and uncanny manner in the same way he takes off the bails standing behind the stumps. He does not like the limelight, but it never left him. He is not a man with a lot of words but always had answers whether it was the opposition, the media, or the public. Cheeky touches of humor and sarcasm are another trait that made us hooked to the team press conferences & post-match presentations.
Going forward, 15th August gives us another reason to cherish it and remember the man who has brought many laurels to our country. The man may have retired but his legacy and the impact on the game will be lasting for many years to come. Wishing him success in all his future endeavors. Hopefully, some of those are associated with the Indian cricket dressing room in some way or another.
And sorry I forgot to mention the name, he is called Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man who made a generation to believe and we fondly call him Thala.
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