So, has the day which MSD fans were dreading and detractors looking forward to, is finally upon us? Has one of Indian Cricket’s most charismatic kings finally decided to bid adieu to his remaining kingdom of limited overs Cricket (he is already retired from tests).???
Whether this decision will be too hasty – triggered by India’s knockout exit from Cricket’s showpiece event OR was it already in the works; is for the champion himself to know & tell us .
What his probable retirement signals however – is the end of an era – that of an athlete par excellence, one who brought much more than mere numbers (runs & stumpings) to Indian Cricket. Yes, numbers act as proofs to validate great sportsmen, however it is the everlasting legacy of game-changing performances and winning leadership which elevate great sportsmen to legendary status.
MSD is one of such rarest of rare Indian cricketers who exceeded the expectations of a billion people every time he donned the India colors. The 2007 Inaugural T20 triumph, 2011 ODI World-cup, Tri-series 2007 in Australia, IPL title wins for CSK, the list goes on… Add to it the innumerable times when the man helped India snatch wins from the jaws of defeat, and you have a hardcore legend who defies belief.
Functional skill is common-place at the International level, however what sets the extraordinary apart is that invaluable ability to read game situations & checkmate the opposition. It will not be an exaggeration to claim that a significant amount of our spin bowlers’ success was due to MSD’s street-smart observations & advice from behind the stumps. He did not cease to a captain even when he was no longer formally in charge. Probably MSD’s razor sharp intellect and ability to stay calm in unbelievably stressful situations gave his mind the space it needed to interpret, devise and apply strategies successfully resulting in winning outcomes.
It is true that the first half of a player’s career is dominated by the body which rules the mind, however the roles reverse towards the later half. It is when the body starts questioning the punishing grind of elite Sport and the petrol tank is almost empty, that the indefatigable mental reserves of legends take over; nudging the body to cross the line just one more time. Moreover, according to the great Steve Waugh – “in the sub-continent cricketers become legends, gods and this makes it very hard to move on”. However equally true is the fact that self-respecting athletes like MSD have an innate sense of knowing when their time is up and calling it quits when the fans are still asking “why” instead of “why not”.
So what’s next for Indian Cricket? Will rising stars like Rishabh Pant be able to fill those larger than life shoes and will Virat’s boys still be effective without the wisdom from behind the stumps? Only time will tell, however the legend of MSD will continue to live on, embellishing the pages of Indian Cricket history and rightfully occupying his seat amongst the true greats of this wonderful game which we so dearly love.
By Harshad Nabar
A Sportsnasha Exclusive