"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." I'm reasonably sure that Joni Mitchell wasn't referring to Mahendra Singh Dhoni when she penned those lyrics for her song 'Big Yellow Taxi', but the sentiment remains.
Any individual captaining their nation is subject to pressure and expectation, only when that individual is MS Dhoni, captain of world cricket leviathan India, that same pressure and expectation takes weapons grade steroids as a means of carrying its one billion passengers. Violent mood swings are a capricious side effect.
Dhoni has often found himself on the receiving end of blame, mockery, even borderline derision throughout his tenure as captain of India. Perhaps the most pertinent example occurred during the recent visit of England to the subcontinent. Dhoni, seeking to exploit the tourists' renowned fallibility against spin, naturally instructed curators around the Test venues to prepare turning tracks. One Test match later - a fixture in which India were routed by the spin bowling duo of England - and Dhoni's name was dirt. It was, of course, entirely his fault.
This is a man that plays more international cricket than any other. Leader of his nation in all three formats of the game, he also keeps wicket. That, in addition to the demands of an assertive board in the BCCI, public expectation and the obligation of marshalling a host of cricketers almost of demi-God status within India is an almighty task. It is a job description wholly dissimilar to that which England's Alastair Cook signed up to, you would imagine.
Dhoni is of course an incredibly wealthy man. In 2012 he was placed 31st on the Forbes magazine list of cash-rich sports people, earning a reported £17 million. A man of such affluence no longer needs cricket for its financial reward. For many, a love of the game might diminish after gaining such riches - and Dhoni's own romance with cricket must surely be tested ever and anon for the aforementioned reasons - but his continued fervour and drive to succeed can only be fuelled by one thing: a great love of his country.
He's an exceptionally brave man, thriving on unrivalled responsibility. Fronting up to a rabid media when India suffers defeat is one thing, but remaining composed and speaking with intelligence and dignity is another. Perhaps Dhoni's greatest exhibit of valour, though, was when promoting himself to number five during the World Cup final of 2011 against Sri Lanka. Making 91 from 79 balls, including a characteristically gargantuan six to conclude proceedings, he 'helicoptered', uppercut and ultimately powered his country to a sensational victory.
A lesser man might have ordered Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh in to face the music first; Dhoni's cojones must be equal in mass to the cement that seemingly fills Virender Sehwag's batting boots.
MS Dhoni is fallible, as is any human being. He is however gallant, selfless and fiercely proud of the country he leads. Rarely have I delighted at the sight of a foreign batsman scoring a century as I did today. Dhoni's innings of 206 not out against Australia in Chennai was a thing of barbarous beauty.
MS will, quite rightly, receive only plaudits for his performance, but I'd like to quietly remind Indian supporters that they should feel immensely privileged to have a man of such stature leading their great cricketing nation. I only wish I were back in India to share in the celebrations.
One day Dhoni might just have had enough. It'd be an easier life, for sure. But, in the meantime, enjoy him and appreciate him. He's a good leader, a better cricketer and an even greater ambassador for India. Oh, and he's also bloody enjoyable for the rest of us to watch.Suggest a correction