Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: Mahendra Singh Dhoni retires from international cricket
End of an era is a phrase that gets thrown around rather lavishly in the modern-day lexicon, but hardly ever did it feel any more appropriate than MS Dhoni's retirement. We look back at one of the biggest sports stories of 2020.
The year 2020 was symbolic of confusion and schedules-gone-awry. Plans were redrawn, calendars were thrown off gear, and normalcy decided to go into hibernation. Amid the chaos, arrived a decision teeming with clarity and hard-nosed rationale. On the evening of 16 August, without letting as much as a whiff, Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement with an amateurish Instagram video, captioned with now legendary words, "from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired (sic)."
End of an era is a phrase that gets thrown around rather lavishly in the modern-day lexicon, but hardly ever did it feel any more appropriate. It was the closure for India's most successful cricket captain; his fading powers were embarrassing, his methods increasingly becoming outmoded. For a once in a generation cricketer, time had moved on. Some may justifiably argue that the decision arrived at least a year late, but the time to debate his international retirement or records is long over. The writing was on the wall after the World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand, and then chief selector's admission that they had "moved on" from Dhoni.
On 16 August, none of it mattered. There was a showreel of emotions that his Instagram video set in motion – his humble beginnings, the career-defining ton against Pakistan, the madcap assault on Sri Lanka, the fickle fans burning his effigy, the ascent to becoming the Test No 1, the World Cup-winning six at Wankhede...
Dhoni's cricketing odyssey was not a trial of his character and skills alone. It was the manifestation of the journey of a 21st-century middle-class India - aspirational, audacious, impetuous, but still working its way to recognition. He was not the first Indian cricketer to come from a relatively small town, and he won't be the last, but none before and perhaps none after him will carry the unmistakable incandescence of thriving despite the system and not because of it.
The coyness of his predecessors was replaced with a quiet confidence that stemmed from being constantly conscious of his bearings. He was not a technically gifted cricketer, but he found a way to work around his limitations and succeed. Success, for Dhoni, was not an outcome; it was a process. The customary handing over of trophies to the junior-most member of the team, the giving away of his World T20 winning jersey to a fan, looking for the farthest corner to stand in a team photograph, the aloofness, the facade, the being-with-you-yet-not-with-you look, the occasional piercing gaze, were all life lessons narrated without sermons and delivered with distinction.
Of course, there were chequered bits in his career too - the spot-fixing scandal, the uncalled-for run-in with the Australian journalist, the 'nothing to add' tweet that presumably rendered country's finest commentator out of contract - and while that made him appear more human, they were also indicative of the supreme power he wielded in the sport. He wasn't a saint, and to his credit, he never claimed to be one.
His retirement, expectedly, leaves a gaping hole in the Indian cricket team. A worthy replacement will be eventually found, but there will never be another like him.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni can look back at his incredible journey with a familiar smirk and allow himself a long, satisfying ride on one of his many sports bikes.
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