For the major part of his international career, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a symbol of calmness on the field, someone who had it all figured out in his head even in the tensest of situations. But there were times when he let emotions get the better of him.
One such moment comes to mind instantly, may be because it is a recent one that occurred during the IPL last year.
Dhoni, known for his humility as much as his special cricketing skills, literally “crossed the line” by entering the field of play during the game between CSK and Rajasthan Royals.
It was the final over of the game with CSK needing 18 off it. Ben Stokes bowled a full toss and umpire Ulhas Gandhe called it a no-ball before backtracking on his decision. That led to an angry Dhoni walking on to the field of play and he was duly fined 50 per cent of his match fee for the outburst.
Recalling the incident, umpire Gandhe did not have much to say. “All I can say is that due process was followed,” he told PTI.
However, a former BCCI umpire was quick to add: “Both the umpire and Dhoni were wrong in that case”.
Another incident that raised eyebrows was when Dhoni was seen pointing a finger towards umpire Billy Bowden during the CB series in Australia in 2012. The third umpire gave Mike Hussey out stumped but the replays showed his one foot was inside the crease.
Realising the TV umpire’s goof-up, Bowden recalled Hussey as he was trudging back to the dressing room.
The whole episode did not go down well with Dhoni, who showed his displeasure by pointing a finger towards the New Zealand umpire.
There were also moments when he gave an earful to his teammates for committing a mistake or not paying attention to his advice and they ended up being caught on the stump mic.
Not to forget the parade of players during a 2009 tour of England when he was clearly upset about reports of his rift with his then deputy Virender Sehwag. A curt statement emphasising team unity was read out by him.
Batsman Manish Pandey was at the receiving end during a T20 in South Africa in 2018 when Dhoni, a master at stealing quick singles, abused him for not paying attention for his call for an extra run.
Pacer Mohammad Shami too was not spared during the 2014 tour of New Zealand. Ignoring Dhoni’s advice, Shami bowled a bouncer that went over the captain’s head for a boundary.
“Mahi bhai ne mujhe thode se tight language mein bola, ‘Dekh beta, bohot log aaye mere saamne. Bohot log khel ke chale gaye jhut mat bol.’ (Mahi bhai told me sternly, ‘See, I’ve seen many cricketers come and go during my time. Don’t lie to me’),” Shami said in a recent Instagram chat.
During a 2015 ODI in Bangladesh, Dhoni was fined 75 per cent of his match fee for pushing pacer Mustafizur Rahman out of his way while completing a quick single. Mustafizur too was penalised half of his match fee for coming in Dhoni’s way.
Nothwithstanding these odd incidents, Dhoni is hugely respected for the way he carried himself all these years.
Whether it was interacting with the opposition, umpires and other match officials, he always came across as someone who had his feet firmly on the ground despite his lofty stature.
Nitin Menon, who was recently promoted to the ICC elite panel of umpires, recalled his interactions with Dhoni.
“I made my umpiring debut with an India-England T20 in Kanpur in 2017. India lost the game but Dhoni came to me and congratulated me, knowing it was my first game. He told me ‘you did well’. He did not have to do that but he did,” Menon told PTI.
“During the travel between series, I never saw him in business class when he had the option. He used to sit in economy just like any of us. It did not matter to him.
“Also, during our interactions on the field, before or after the game, he would often ask about the domestic players. Who was doing well, things like that,” Menon added.