New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid rich tribute to former India skipper MS Dhoni as he hanged his boots from international cricket, calling him not just a sportsperson but a phenomenon, which was much appreciated by MSD.
On India's 74th Independence Day, Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket via a social media post, thus bringing an end to an illustrious career spanning 16 years.
"On 15th August, in your trademark unassuming style you shared a short video that was enough to become a long and passionate discussion point for the entire nation," Modi said in a letter addressed to Dhoni.
"130 crore Indians were disappointed but also eternally grateful for all that you have done for Indian cricket in the last decade-and-a-half," he added.
MSD replied with a tweet: "An Artist, soldier and sportsperson what they crave for is appreciation, that their hard work and sacrifice is getting noticed and appreciated by everyone. Thanks PM @narendramodi for your appreciation and good wishes."
Dhoni, who made his ODI debut in 2004, changed the face of Indian cricket with his calm demeanour, sharp understanding of the game and astute leadership qualities. He represented India in 350 ODIs, 90 Tests and 98 T20Is.
One of the most admired and respected cricketers, Dhoni is also among the most successful captains in world cricket. It was under his leadership that India lifted the World Cup in 2011 after having led India to triumph in the World T20 in its maiden edition of the tournament held in 2007 in South Africa. With India winning the Champions Trophy in 2013 in England, Dhoni became the first and is still the only captain to have won all three ICC Trophies.
"One way to look at your cricketing career is through the prism of statistics. You have been one of the most successful captains, instrumental in taking India to the top of the world charts. Your name will go down in history as being one of the world's batting greats, among the greatest cricketing captains and certainly one of the best wicketkeepers the game has seen," stated the prime minister.
"Your dependability in tough situations and your style of finishing matches, particularly the 2011 World Cup final, will forever be etched in the public memory for generations. But, the name Mahendra Singh Dhoni will not be remembered merely for his career statistics or specific match-winning roles," he added.
Modi further said that looking at the former Indian cricket team captain as just a sportsperson would be injustice. "The correct way to assess your impact is as a phenomenon!
"Rising from humble beginnings in a small town, you burst onto the national scene, made a name for yourself and most importantly made India proud. Your rise and conduct thereafter gives strength and inspiration to crores of youngsters who like you have not been to cushy schools or colleges, neither do they belong to illustrious families but they have the talent to distinguish themselves at the highest levels.
"You have been one of the important illustrations of the spirit of New India, where family name does not make young people's destiny but they make their own names and their own destinies," he added.
The Prime Minister further said that it doesn't matter where one comes from as long as he/she knows where they are headed and that's the spirit which Dhoni has exuded in many youngsters.
"Where we come from does not matter as long as we know where we are headed - this is the spirit that you have exuded and inspired many youngsters with. Many of your memorable on-field moments exemplify a particular generation of Indians.
"This generation of Indians does not hesitate to take risks and back each other's abilities in even the toughest situations- seen in the way you took risks many a time in backing little known youngsters to deliver in high pressure situations. The 2007 T20 World Cup finals is a perfect example of this spirit," he added.
India, under the leadership of Dhoni, had won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa after defeating Pakistan in a pulsating final.
"This generation of Indians does not lose their nerve in decisive situations; we saw that in many of your innings and games. Our youth does not lose heart in the face of adversity and, most importantly, are fearless, just like the team you led," Modi said.
"No matter what hairstyle you sported, your calm head remained the same in victory or defeat, which is a very important lesson for every youth," he added.
Dhoni holds the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army unit of the Parachute Regiment (106 Para TA battalion). The honour was accorded to him by the Indian Army in 2011.
Referring to that, Prime Minister Modi said: "I would like to also mention your special association towards India's armed forces. You were most happy being among our army personnel. Your concern towards their welfare has always been remarkable."
Towards the end, the Prime Minister wished Dhoni for his life beyond cricket and hoped that the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman would now get more time to spend with his wife Sakshi and daughter Ziva.
"I hope Sakshi and Ziva get to spend more time with you. I convey my good wishes to them as well, because without their sacrifices and support nothing would have been possible," said Modi
"Our youth could also learn from you how to balance professional and personal priorities; I remember seeing a picture of you playing with your cute daughter even as everyone around you was celebrating a victory in a particular tournament! That was vintage MS Dhoni.
"Wishing you the very best for your future endeavours," he signed off.