I was watching the India vs Sri Lanka Champions Trophy match. The result was heartbreaking. But this isn’t about the loss. It was the 49th over of the Indian innings. MS Dhoni had Kedar Jadhav at the other end. Mahi had done brilliantly up till then. A half century off just 40-odd balls had, at least briefly, brushed aside any talk of his retirement being around the corner.
That has been his job for so long now. Over a decade of being the master of the death overs. But then he did something that actually blew me away. Not because I hadn’t seen it before, but because I have seen him doing it so many times so perfectly that it seems all the more amazing.
49th over, when you would expect him to blast the ball to smithereens, he stroked it with a light lower hand inside the circle and took off like his life depended on it. The fielder was rushing to the ball, and Dhoni was rushing for a double. The best part is not how close it was, but how it wasn’t. Midway through the second run, he knew he would make it and he slowed down to reach the batting end with ease.
I have seen men like Virat Kohli do it. But Kohli is younger and has a leaner built. You have to look at Mahi’s structure as well. He is broadly built. And a month away from turning 36. But I don’t think any of this matters to him. All he wants is to win.
But this wasn’t just about him doing the running. There was the small matter of having Kedar at the other end. To put it mildly, Kedar is not the fittest player we have, but Dhoni inspired him to go for that double as well.
Seeing him do it again reminded me of all the times I have seen him do it before. I have seen him run quick singles, sure. But those doubles are truly magnificent. It shows desire and passion. He could easily not run and whack the next one for a six. But he knows that every run counts and that not all balls are meant for the crowd to catch.
You don’t see MS being aggressive. He emotes through his game. Not just through those huge shots, but through those loud shouts of “YES!”, every time he converts the ones into twos.
It was even more impressive seeing him do that in Test matches. He had to crouch all day long for the best part of 5 days. Those legs have taken a serious beating over the years.
His body moves from side to side, like he has to bully the wind out of his path. And in that moment, he looks like a graceful beast charging towards the opposite end. It’s a run full of purpose. You see it in his eyes and in the way he urgently bends down to put his bat inside the crease at the other end before blasting off again. There’s something very different about him. It defies logic.
He knows what he has to do as soon as he touches the ball. In that brilliantly calm head of his, the calculations have already been made, he has already seen himself making it back to the crease. And then comes the flawless execution.
He did it when he started playing for us, he did it as a captain, and he’s still doing it a decade later. Age has no control over him, it’s him who is always in control and it is perfectly reflected in those doubles.
All of this takes a backseat though. Why wouldn’t it? When he hits shots like the helicopter, when he clears stadiums and when he has been the greatest finisher the game has ever seen. But it shouldn’t.
Remember his shots, his victories and his trophies. But never forget the image of him charging down the pitch to complete the ‘Dhoni Double.’ It is an inspiring part of his legacy, which is as brilliant to watch as anything else he does.
And we all know that nobody… nobody… does it better than MS Dhoni.