MSD-End Of A Great Innings
August 17, 2020
MS Dhoni(MSD) announced his retirement from International Cricket last evening. For all Indians who love and live Cricket, Dhoni is a GOAT.
What makes MSD such an inspiration and evokes so much worship and adoration amongst his followers ( I am one of them)? Yes, he has some great achievements and results. There are others, too, with even more glowing achievements. However, what sets him apart is his leadership approach to the game and life in general. Here are five of my favorite qualities of MSD.
- Managing Emotions:
People called MSD Captain Cool for a reason. No matter what the situation was on the field-defending a small total, or going after an impossible run chase, or trusting his teammates to deliver, MSD had it in him to keep his emotions in check and do what was needed.
In good times how you behave doesn’t matter, but in stressed and challenging situations, keeping your emotions in check matters. Being Calm in the face of extraordinary pressure. This was MSD’s hallmark.
2. Performing under pressure
The score was 3 for 114. This was the 2011 world cup final; there were 33K people inside the stadium and 1000 Million Indians outside who wanted the world cup to come back to India. This pressure would have put anyone else down. So, instead of following the script, MSD decided to promote himself up the batting order and lead from the front. He scored 91 runs ending the game with a majestic six. History was created that day, and India won the World Cup only for the second time. This was just one of the many innumerable times when MSD saved the day for India. After all, he had another moniker, “Mr. Finisher.”
MSD was the epitome of an alpha leader- His best came out when the chips were down. You want some like him in your corner when things are not going your way. Gary Kirsten, the erstwhile Coach of the India Cricket team when MSD was the Captain said it nicely, ” I would go to war with Dhoni by my side.”
3. Belief in his Team
Leadership is a responsibility and not an entitlement. A great leader takes ownership and accountability for whoever is under his charge.
I remember this ICC Champions Trophy Final in 2013. The game was down to the last few overs, and India was in a bad situation. India’s lead bowler Ishant Sharma had got smacked all over the place for runs. I remember abusing MSD sitting on my couch when he persisted in letting Ishant Sharma bowl in a crunch situation despite him having been very expensive earlier. What happened next? Ishant Sharma picked up two valuable wickets in that over, and India regained the momentum to win the Championship. Such cool-headed confidence in your teammates is possible only when you are willing to take full risk and responsibility for your teammates’ actions. If Ishant Sharma had failed in that over and India lost the trophy, the blame would have been entirely on MSD.
When you repose faith and confidence in your teammates even in their worst moments, you will see that they prove your confidence right. It is always essential to trust and back your team members when they need you. MSD had a natural instinct to do this.
4. Letting the Team take credit
This last facet of his personality is my favorite. A great leader is one who takes responsibility for the defeat and ensures the team members get the credit and the limelight for success. MSD is the only international Captain to have won the ICC championships in all formats of the game. What remains a memory for me is that in every victory, he would fade into the background and let the Team soak in the applause and excitement of the win.
When asked about why he was never seen in the on-field celebrations after any big tournament victory, MSD had this to say, ” why should the Captain take the credit for the Team’s victory. As a captain, when I go on the podium to receive the trophy on behalf of the Team, I have already received more than my fair share of visibility. It is a moment for the Team. It is not about me.”
To be so self-assured not to crave any limelight, particularly after a big success, is extraordinary.
5. Being Grounded
Maturity is in being balanced in good and bad situations. Sport is binary. You either win or lose. I have never seen MSD getting over-emotional in victory or defeat. There is a zen-like quality in him that is very endearing and makes him very unlike any other superstar. MSD carries his success with grace and modesty. No on the field or off-field shenanigans that one would typically associate with superstars. That is the hallmark of someone who is grounded.
MSD announced his exit from International Cricket in his typical understated and dignified fashion. Even though he has not been playing international cricket for some time, the thought of not seeing him wear the India jersey again evokes nostalgia. An era has truly ended.