Hailing from Ranchi, a town in India famous for handicrafts and metal works, Dhoni was by no means a crafty batsman but a man whose willpower and determination were as tough as those metals. It's quite a story how a how a train ticket examiner who couldn't impress his selectors initially became one of the greatest icons of Indian cricket.
The goalkeeper of his school team, Dhoni wasn't a cricketer at the beginning. One of his school coaches asked him to keep wickets as he was used to goalkeeping. Thus, began his journey, a journey full of ebbs and flows, agony and ecstasy.
MS Dhoni's last chance to impress the under-19 selectors was in the 1999-00 Cooch Behar Trophy. He performed quite well with a fine 84 in the final, but Yuvraj Singh, who went on to be Dhoni's long-time teammate and friend, snatched away all the spotlight with a monumental unbeaten 358. This earned Yuvraj a spot in the under-19 team and Dhoni was left out.
Dhoni played for Bihar in the Ranji Trophy and East Zone in Duleep Trophy but couldn't impress the national selectors as Ajay Ratra was called up to the team. In 2002, he moved to Kharagpur as a train ticket examiner. There he was part of the South Eastern Railways cricket team. Dhoni was rejected by the Railways team selectors, as they thought his batting and keeping to be unconvincing.
In 2004, Dhoni was spotted by a Talent Resource Development officer Prakash Poddar. Poddar immediately sent his report to National Cricket Academy which was instrumental in Dhoni's international debut at the end of the same year.
Dhoni's beginning wasn't that special, not getting runs in the first few games. But aware of his flamboyant batting, the then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly promoted him to number three in just his fifth game. Dhoni repaid the faith of his captain by smashing a magnificent 148 against a formidable Pakistan bowling line-up in Faisalabad.
Since then, there was no looking back. Within two years, he found himself in South Africa captaining a young team in the ICC World T20 2007. Dhoni's ice-cool captaincy under immense pressure was acclaimed as India won their first ever global title in 24 years. Four years later, his magnificent knock of unbeaten 91 in the final enabled India to lift the 2011 World Cup trophy. In 2013, India won the ICC Champions Trophy and Dhoni became the only captain the history to win all three ICC events as captain. He led his team to number one spot in ICC Test rankings as well.
An incident during the 2008 tri-series in Australia which also involved Sri Lanka defines MS Dhoni as a captain and his mindset as a cricketer. In a game in the series, India had to chase down a small total of 160 against Ricky Ponting's mighty Australia. India were cruising along the total when Dhoni asked for a change of gloves. Then he told the player who brought his gloves to inform the players and staff in the dressing room not to celebrate at the balcony after the win. Rohit Sharma was there with him in the crease. He told Sharma to keep the handshakes with the Aussies after the win as deadpan as possible. Dhoni instructed him to behave as if beating Australia is not a big deal. Remember, Australia were invincible at that time, winning the World Cup for the third consecutive time and Dhoni had just took over captaincy from Rahul Dravid. This was his 15th match as captain. Bharat Sundaresan, a journalist, in his book 'The Dhoni Touch' mentioned that, one of the Aussie players later admitted that they were shaken.
Exactly this mentality of MS Dhoni led him and his team to the pinnacle of glory.
Raina follows suit
Suresh Raina followed long-time captain and friend MS Dhoni's footsteps in retiring from international cricket. The southpaw from Uttar Pradesh made his debut under Rahul Dravid but it was Dhoni who brought the best out of Raina. They both have been part of the Super Kings, a Chennai-based Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise since 2008 and share a great bond. Dhoni is fondly called 'Thala' by the Super Kings fans which means leader in Tamil while Raina is called 'Chinna Thala' which means the right hand of the leader. Raina is the first Indian batsman to score hundreds in all three formats and was a key member of the 2011 World Cup winning side.
It was quite unlikely for a great finisher like Dhoni to finish like this. But then again, this is Dhoni. He looks at things differently. He called time on his international career on such a day when all the journalists were on leave. No press conference, no newspaper exclusives, no hints, just a mere instagram post. One can think that Mahendra Singh Dhoni deserved a better farewell. But this is his own way. The Dhoni way. The Mahi way.