Dhoni, 39, took to Instagram to make his announcement, putting up a slideshow of images from his career to the soundtrack of yesteryears singer Mukesh on his official account, with the caption: “Thanks – Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired.” (sic)
While the post didn’t specify it, it is expected that the retirement is only from international cricket, and Dhoni will play in the forthcoming IPL 2020. The Super Kings chief executive had recently said they expected him to play for the franchise even after retirement, till at least 2022.
The announcement means Dhoni’s final international match will remain his 350th ODI, in which he scored 50 in a World Cup 2019 semi-final defeat to New Zealand. He also played 90 Test matches and 98 Twenty20 internationals in an international career that began in December 2004. His statistics are formidable: more than 15,000 international runs across formats, 16 centuries and more than 800 victims as wicketkeeper.
But Dhoni’s legacy stretches far beyond the numbers: he will be remembered, as both batsman and captain, for his unconventional style and his ability to remain calm in the face of the heaviest pressure. That shone through in his biggest moment on the world stage, closing out the World Cup final in Mumbai in 2011 with a six to put the seal on a match-winning 91*. In the other biggest match of his career, the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, he threw the ball to Joginder Sharma for the last over instead of the more experienced Harbhajan Singh.
His life story was unusual enough to warrant a biopic. His roots, in the cricketing backwaters of Ranchi; his early working life as a ticket inspector on Indian Railways; and his burst on to the scene, long-haired, fearless and big-hitting. Within a couple of years he was captaining India’s fledgling Twenty20 side in the inaugural T20 World Cup; it was, famously, an event the BCCI did not take seriously. India’s win, however, changed world cricket by giving a huge fillip to the IPL – a tournament that was already in the works – and further establishing the BCCI as the pre-eminent global power.
In the years that followed, Dhoni’s Indian team had results on the field to match that financial clout. His captaincy was based on his cool, almost computer-like brain, and his ability to not allow the pressure of long-term results to determine his tactics. Along with coach Gary Kirsten, he put his senior performers in a comfortable place, and they returned the favour with some of their best years in international cricket.
The 2011 World Cup win was the peak of his career; after that, he had to contend with an ageing team and the toll that non-stop cricket was taking on his own body. His batting changed and he cut down on the pyrotechnics for a more calculated approach to batting, especially when among the tail. Towards the end, though, he came in for criticism as his batting slowed down and he came under heavy criticism for India’s defeat against England in the World Cup, where they fell short by 31 runs despite having five wickets in hand.
No appraisal of Dhoni would be complete without mentioning his formidable record in the IPL, where he will still be active. He’s been the face of the Chennai Super Kings franchise for its entire existence, either side of its two-year ban, leading them to four titles and four runner-up finishes. He became so deeply associated with the city that he even became a co-owner of a Chennai-based football franchise.
More to follow…