Prof Satya Narayan Misra in Bhubaneswar, April 16, 2024: When Dhoni pummelled Hardik for three consecutive sixes in the last over in the match against MI in the current IPL to seal MI’s chances to win; it brought visions of Dhoni, the captain hitting a helicopter six to win India, the World Cup in 2011.

The placid Arabian Sea became turbulent; the azure sky blessed the best captain India has produced, with drops of dew. The leader, the peerless wicket keeper and his impish smile vanished amongst the rapturous crowd that never hoped for a win after Jaywardhane’s sizzling century and yet another failure of Sachin, the master, in 2007 & 2011 finals.

Five captains stand tallest in the pantheon of cricket; Frank Worrell, Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell, Imran Khan & MS Dhoni. Worrell was the first black who captained the warring islands of the West Indies, with prodigious talent. When he toured Australia in 1960-61, with Weeks, Walcott, the three Wsin tow, fast bowlers like Hall and Griffith, and all-rounder like Sobers, everybody thought they would wallop the Australians.

Little realizing, how doughty the Australians can be under the captaincy of Riche Benaud, who spun magic with his leg spin and wily leadership. This series marked the first tied test in Brisbane and Benaud won the series 2-1. But the high point of the series was when Richie asked Worrell to loft the trophy along with him and travel in an open motorcade with him in the streets of Australia. Richie said: We won the series; Worrell won the hearts. That was sportsmanship at its epic best.

Ian Chappell marshalled his fast bowlers Lillie & Thomson extremely well and made risky declarations to win over their traditional rivals like Englandin the 70s. He was the first enfant terrible as captain, with a will to win at all cost. Imran as Pakistan’s captain in the 80s was in a similar lane and was charisma personified. He returned to cricket at the invite of his President to win his country the World Cup in 1992 through astute captaincy & doughty batting, though waning in bowling.He was also hubris personified when he failed to acknowledge the stellar role played by other team members like Miandad, Akram & Inzzy in the World Cup win.

But MS Dhoni is a different kettle of fish & magnanimity personified. When India won the World Cup in 2011, despite his spectacular match winning innings, he allowed Sachin to hog all the limelight. His self-effacing quality came up again after winning the IPL final for the fifth time in 2023.

Instead of holding the cup, he sidestepped and asked Rayudu to hold it. He knew it was Raydu’s last IPL match & he wanted him to savour the delight, of more than a decade’s solid performance as a batsman.The way he mentored the young rookies like Pathirana, who reminded of Malinga, showed in the match yesterday when he blitzed four batsmen to clinch the match.

It was a pity that he could not repeat the magic with the bat in the final of the IPL-2023.He perished in the first ball that he faced. In this, he has a legendary predecessor to give the company in Don Bradman. In his last test in 1948, Don needed a four to have a batting average of 100 in test matches. As he descended the steps, his eyes were moist. As Eric Hollies bowled him for a blob with a googly, Bill Bowes writes that possibly his teary eyes could not pick up the googly.

Dhoni in the post-match conversation said that he was overwhelmed by the reception that he received. Possibly his eyes were moist and heart choked with emotion. Like Ulysses, the Greek hero: The mind was willing but the body was weak. The greatest batsman of all time Bradman&the Don of the captains, Dhoni, are like colossus with feet of clay.

IPL was mounted to celebrate gloss, glitz & glamour to tap the enormous potential of cricket to rake in mullah. It was a global extravaganza where every player from different countries wanted to participate, compete and excel. It was Kerry Packerwho started the rebel cricket series in 1977 when the official establishment denied him to host a series.

The best in the business of cricket played with coloured clothes at night to entertain compete and rake in moolah to the poorly paid cricketers. When both parties called the truce peace was by 1979, cricket was never the same again. Night cricket became the high point of entertainment & its unalloyed celebratory refrain demolished the laid back gentleness of test cricket. Lalit Modi brought in the concept of the Premier League & replicated Packer’s WSC through IPL in 2008. Dhoni’s CSK team became the champion in 2010 and has been a champion for five times like Mumbai Indians who have equalled it.

It was, therefore, billed as the best match of the IPL tournament when the two champion teams met yesterday. It was ironic that Rohit Sharma is longer MI’s captain. Nor is Dhoni, who is aging and handed over the baton to Gaikwad as his successor. He is possibly playing his last IPL tournament, now that he is 43. But that does not take away his magical appeal and the deafening cheer he receives every time he comes to bat at the tail end of 20 overs; be it Chepuk, Eden, Wankhende or Kotla. They do not seem to mind, that he might fail, no longer can hit a winning six at will and finish the match.

Sunday night’s three sixes in the last over were therefore a déjà vu for the crowd in Wankhede, transcending MI or CSK divide. It was catharsis of sorts to see their hero of 2011 in the pomp of his ferocity with the bat. President Musharraf loved his long hairs which he shed as years went by. The wheel has come full circle. The long hair is back, laced with dimpled smile. His magnanimity transcending team loyalty and region that he belongs to make him a true Thalaiva and Don of Cricket.

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