MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni
AFP

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.

Rudyard Kipling’s immortal words, inscribed on Centre Court at Wimbledon, epitomised the way MS Dhoni played the game and lived his life.

He met triumph with a smile and disaster with a grin.

He got run out in his first and last game ODI games.

In between, he reshaped modern cricket and helped make India the most powerful cricketing nation in the world.

His retirement video was quintessential MS Dhoni.

Released on Independence Day, it was a slideshow of his triumphs and disasters to an old Mukesh song with a caption that smirked at Queen’s English.

Over the years, numerous articles have been written on the idea of India.

If we are being honest, at least in the post-liberalisation phase, no man epitomised the idea of a new India like MS Dhoni.

Thomas Caryle had argued the history of the world is the biography of great men.

The history of modern India, whenever it is told, will always have Dhoni as one of its heroes.

He was India’s tryst with its new destiny.

He would also be the lodestar for a new generation of young men and women, coming-of-age after economic liberalisation.

Dhoni certainly had a lot in common with the people he played for.

There was a disdain for the elite English-speaking press, the one that mocks people.

In fact, he hilariously turned a question about his retirement into a counter-interview asking the reporter if he knew anyone who could keep for India.

Dhoni’s success spoke a new language to the millions in this country.

It didn’t matter where you were born or in which family.

The circumstances of your birth were accidental and immaterial. Nothing could stop you from seizing your destiny.

It was immaterial whether you could mind your Ps and Qs or speak English articulately.

Though he did become very articulate in his later years.

It didn’t matter if you had connections. Or whether you were conventional.

The only thing that mattered was talent, grit and hard work. You could forge your destiny if you were willing to follow through.

MS Dhoni took a sledgehammer to the conventional notions of success in a country with deep inequities.

Even though one was never a hardcore fan, watching Dhoni bat was like going to the movies.

The kid from the nondescript city of Ranchi could make the heart pound.

As his movie brilliantly showed, the world stopped when Mahi started hitting.

Much like the heroes worshipped in the city where he is considered King, MS Dhoni seemed to possess muscles which were the fount of infinite energy, a perpetual motion machine running on adrenaline and hope.

And perhaps even more admirable than his power-hitting ability was his mind.

As captain MS Dhoni possessed the rarest of rare gifts. He kept his head as those around him lost theirs.

Dhoni epitomised the qualities of a new India built on hope and confidence in one’s self.

Like Dhoni, new India doesn’t shy away from being a patriot. Or loudly stating that one stands by one’s Army. It doesn’t do monkey-balancing about one’s religion, and proudly goes to temples.

It is cocksure and confident of itself, not arrogant or brash.

It is a nation ready to take on the world.

It’s not ashamed of its own wealth. Faux portrayals of austerity are passé. Why should one shy away from flaunting one’s bikes and cars, bought with hard-earned money from one’s own sweat and blood?

And it doesn’t forget his friends and family after being successful.

In fact, it was India’s triumph at the 2007 T20 World Cup that convinced Lalit Modi that the IPL would be a huge deal.

Even then, there was a heart-felt moment that showed the deep empathy that flowed through MS Dhoni.

Handing over the ball to Joginder Sharma, now a cop with Haryana Police, he said: “You have bowled so many overs in domestic cricket with so much dedication, when no one is watching. Don't worry, cricket won't let you down now."

Long exploited by colonisers, India would become the home of the greatest cricket league that existed, which would now make the whites dance to the brown man’s tune.

It’s a message that David Warner has taken literally and internalised.

A close friend and a hardcore Dhoni supporter said that he felt like a part of him had died when he heard MS Dhoni had retired.

The idea that Dhoni will never pull on the blue shirt seems too alien.

Perhaps because when Dhoni pulled on that shirt, it felt like he was playing for an idea.

Enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona once said: “I didn’t play against a particular team. I play against the idea of losing.”

That’s why, as long as MS Dhoni was at the crease, there was no question of losing.

Even when he bit of more than he could chew, he faced it all, stood tall and did it his way. Many moons ago, Frank Sinatra sang: “I did it my way.”

So did MS Dhoni. Or should we say he did it the Mahi Way. And in doing so he forged the idea of a new India.

Read other Nonsensical Nemo columns.

Nirmalya Dutta is Web Editor of The Free Press Journal. Views are personal

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