Dhoni’s Leap of Faith Provides Cheer after Chhetri Heartbreak

MS Dhoni and his flying effort (Image: Jio Cinema Screengrab)

The Gujarat Titans innings was 7.2 overs old and Vijay Shankar had just hit a superb six off Tushar Deshpande in the previous over to make his intent clear. He would go after the bowlers and take his chances. Daryl Mitchell was bowling his gentle medium pace, and Vijay had reasons to believe he could get some momentum going.

Till that moment, MS Dhoni had done nothing much in the game. One expected him to come out and bat the last few balls, but Chennai Super Kings (CSK) sent Ravindra Jadeja instead. The Whistle Podu army was disappointed, and each time the camera cut to Dhoni in the dressing room, he seemed to have a smile on his face. As if he would not give in to the fans. As if he preferred to stay away from the limelight. Most of Chennai, and millions of Indian cricket fans, wanted Dhoni to get into the game. But somehow, it hadn’t happened. Till that ball.

Vijay flashed outside off stump and the ball flew towards first slip. Dhoni, who turns 43 in July, then did something we used to expect from Dhoni at 30. He flung himself to his right, body in the air and both arms fully stretched to reach the ball. A 2.27-metre dive. In that split-second, it did not seem real. How was it possible for someone who doesn’t play the sport for 10 months every year? How could he dive and show this level of agility? As he fell to Earth, he made sure the ball did not slip out of his hands. The contact with the ground has many a time resulted in the ball popping out of the fielder’s hand, and Dhoni made sure that did not happen.

A roll across the turf, and he bounced back up, much to the joy of every fan watching in the stadium and beyond. The ball was in the gloves, and the catch was clean. The organisers did not waste a second in showing “what a catch” on every LED screen in the stadium, and the yellow army found its voice. The players all rushed to the team’s talisman, and he was clearly happy with the effort. The smile told a story, and the city of Chennai was delighted with its favourite son.


Sport, needless to say, is about moments and this was one such. A glimpse of brilliance that turned the clock back and gave the IPL another Dhoni story to tell. Just like Virat Kohli, Dhoni still has that ability to shock us all with his brilliance. Within moments, the catch was viral and #Dhoni had started to trend on social media. In Chennai, he is a cult figure, and the fans craving for something special from him had their prayers answered. Those 133 wins as captain, with five titles, don’t sum up Dhoni. The emotion does. And the catch was proof of Chennai’s enduring love affair. Their Thala, and MSD to everyone else in India.

You just want him to do something special. That deep craving to see him succeed. And when he does, you feel elated. You go to sleep happy that he is still around plying his art. We can still soak in every moment of Dhoni on the field, and keep hoping that he will come out to bat for a few balls at least. And if he doesn’t, he can still dive 2.27m and take a stunner to make our night.

After what was a horrific evening for the Indian football team, which lost to ‘homeless’ Afghanistan, you needed something from Dhoni to sleep in peace. This is because he is a good Indian habit. For 16 seasons, he has been a constant. Catches like the one last night could tempt him to go on for some more time. And for us, they are beacons of hope in an often-cruel sporting landscape. When I see the picture of Sunil Chhetri distraught and heartbroken, I have to say that sport can be brutal. But then, there is Dhoni. Let’s just say sport is real, and it does offer second chances. Chhetri could get his in June, against Kuwait. Till then, let’s enjoy every CSK game that Dhoni will be on the pitch for at Fortress Chepauk.


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