Why he matters: Ever the enigma, retirement did nothing to diminish the phenomenon that is MS Dhoni, with his Chennai Super Kings drawing out crowds and cacophony unlike any other IPL squad. Chandresh Narayanan unravels the mystery that is this inspirational leader and brand magnet.
With the seventh installment of Mission Impossible hitting movie screens, Ethan Hunt took us on yet another roller-coaster ride. While Tom Cruise may be aging with every sequel (he’s 61!), he’s the one the makers entrust with the most daredevil stunts. If one were to locate a parallel in cricket, they’d find their answer in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A crowd-puller, Mahi still commands the loudest cheers and maximum attention from the cameras.
The 2023 leg of the Indian Premier League was testament to the former Indian skipper’s everlasting popularity. Every venue in India roared in joy whenever Dhoni graced the big screens or when he walked onto the field. Every move of his, even at his ripe old age (at least for cricket) of 41 was scrutinised minutely. The way he expertly stumped Shubman Gill is still talked about for his swiftness and vigilance. There may be many such young superstars rising up the ranks, but there’ll always be only one king of the jungle.
Chennai Super Kings still rely on him to lead their fortunes, evident in the way he steered them to their fifth IPL title this year. Dhoni is an expert at reading the room and knows how best to utilise his skills for his side. As a leader on the field, there’s no match even now, proven by how he expertly handled a subpar bowling attack and hurdles in the form of injuries. Yet, he remained as alert as ever behind the stumps.
With the bat, no man at the crease draws the anticipation “the finisher” does, the thought of which takes us back to the 2011 World Cup final, where he brought home the trophy with a final swing of his signature helicopter shot.
During the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE, Dhoni was cast in a new role as mentor for the Men in Blue. His presence, it was hoped, would galvanise the squad. However, what India really needed was Dhoni on the field, for he’s still the smartest, calmest brain cricket has ever seen. It’s now three years since MS Dhoni officially retired from international cricket and four years since he last played for India in any format. But if there’s one man for whom every Indian’s heart beats on a cricket field, it’s Dhoni. Every year, loyal CSK fans hope he will carry on for another IPL, with the ace captain continually teasing them with hints!
He’s a man with a biopic on his life, a very public profile, and a massive social media following. Yet he remains an enigma, rarely agreeing to interviews with publications or disclosing much about his life off the field. In fact, he can disappear without notice, much like Ethan Hunt, and then reemerge, ready for a fresh challenge on hearing,“Your mission, should you choose to accept it...”
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