“Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired.”

Your, spelt as ur. No space between the period after ‘throughout’ and ‘from’. Not 1930 hrs, but 1929 hrs as the time of retirement. A capital R in Retired as if somehow that aspect of his career has taken up its own human form. And to go with that line, a (presumably) homemade video that is a montage of images (some screenshots) of his cricketing journey with the Indian team.

With a video that he posted on Instagram on a Saturday evening of a national holiday to announce his retirement from international cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni added another captivating little chapter to a story that has captured India’s imagination since 2004.

With the song Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon from the 1976 Hindi movie Kabhie Kabhie playing in the background, Dhoni turned poet (and video editor?) to bid adieu.

Do not listen to television news anchors saying this did not come as a surprise to them. Like he caught many a batsmen short of their crease with his lightning quick reflexes behind the stumps, he had the media stumped.

Of course, the decision by itself was anything but lightning quick: it has been a long drawn out saga since that day at Old Trafford, when — just like in his first ever innings — Dhoni was run out.

The video, that shows the highs and lows of the career, is filled with personal touches too, evidently. The choice of photos and screengrabs over his 15-year international career and how he placed those say plenty despite Dhoni just adding one line to it. The video lingers longest at two specific moments — the euphoric moments after the final of 2011 World Cup where he is hoisted on shoulders and his run-out by Martin Guptill in the semi-final of the 2019 edition.

And just like that, for the third time in his career, he dropped a big decision by timing it on his own terms.

The feeling was similar when he announced his retirement from Test cricket. After a detailed press conference in the conclusion of the Test match at Melbourne Cricket Ground, where no mention was made about his farewell, a release from the BCCI followed soon after. The strain of playing all formats was cited as a reason.


Then came the announcement in January 2017. When the world thought he was having a chat about team selection with MSK Prasad in Nagpur, it turned out he had intimated his decision to step down as captain. The Champions Trophy was few months away, he could have used it as a final hurrah. But he gave Virat Kohli the chance to be India captain at an ICC event before he would have to eventually lead the team out in 2019.

The common thread in the three big decisions is the element of surprise with his timing, in the order of decreasing impact perhaps, as well as the fact they came away from the public limelight. No farewell Test, no farewell matches as captain, and no farewell game as an India cricketer.

But, while the first two decisions came with a degree of detachment, his goodbye to international cricket showed he is not aloof from things around him as it is made out to be.

Does he really care, then? Does he know we care? Does it matter to him that we know he cares? Did he do it the way he did it — with a flurry of personal touches — because he wanted to show the world even though we thought he hid his emotions remarkably well, he felt the joy and pain of all Indian fans? He might still get his one on-field farewell, in front of adoring spectators at the end of a game of cricket but for now, all we get is to dissect what he had to “say” through 247 seconds of his video.

Russell Crowe, playing the role of Noble Prize-winning economist John Nash in The Beautiful Mind asks: “I have always believed in numbers, in the equations and logic that lead to reason. And after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask: What truly is logic?”

With the many mysterious equations Dhoni had with cricket, the safest conclusion to make is that he made many an Indian fall in love — even irrationally at times — with his ways. Unique, calculated, and when it comes to finishing, with a measure of style.