Dhoni is among the most successful captains in world cricket. Under his captaincy, India lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and ICC World T20 in 2007 in South Africa.
As Mahi heralded a new dawn, Timesofindia.com caught up with some players who shared their best memories of having spent time with Dhoni:
Irfan Pathan (former India cricketer)
He has been a wonderful cricketer. When it comes to records, if anyone would try to aim for his record as a captain, it would be a mountainous task to achieve what MS Dhoni has achieved. A guy who came in the Indian team with the flamboyance, matured as soon as he got the captaincy in 2007. It was a wonderful experience to play cricket with him. We had quite a few experiences. It’s great what he has achieved, what he has done for himself and the country, as well as many youngsters who will take up cricket and their idol will be Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Khaleel Ahmed (India cricketer)
I always wanted to play under Mahi bhai’s captaincy. Mahi bhai quit the limited overs captaincy in 2017 and I made my international debut in 2018. But the day came. He led India against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup. I had picked three wickets on debut (vs Hong Kong) and was selected for the second match against Afghanistan. It was an honour to play under him. We were asked to field. The moment we all entered the field, Mahi bhai shouted “Khaleel, idhar aa. Jaa start kar bowling (Khaleel, come here! Start the proceedings). That was the magical moment for me. I always wanted to start for India the way Zaheer Khan used to do. And that opportunity was given to me by Mahi bhai. I immediately rushed to the umpire and took the ball. I didn’t want Mahi bhai to change his mind (laughs). He never made me feel like a junior. He always treated me like a friend and a younger brother.
Ishan Kishan (Jharkhand and Mumbai Indians cricketer)
He always asked me to give myself time when I go and play a match. He said give yourself half an hour if you are playing a red ball game to get into the rhythm. Once you are set, then do whatever you want. I am someone who will try to hit the ball from the word go. He asked me to be patient and calm. Keeping calm is something I learnt from him and it worked really well in my game. I wish him all the best for his career. He is a legend of the game.
Siddharth Kaul (India cricketer)
I can’t forget the day when he gave me my debut cap. I will always cherish that moment. Receiving a debut cap from a legend like Mahi bhai was a very big thing for me. I got both my debut caps (T20Is and ODIs) from Mahi bhai. He is leaving international cricket. It’s an emotional moment for me. I wish the World T20 would have happened this year and we could see Mahi bhai in the tournament. That would have been a different feeling altogether. His retirement news is a big shock to everyone.
Lalchand Rajput (former India cricketer and Team India manager of 2007 T20 World Cup winning team)
He guided India to the World Cup T20 in 2007. That will be the special moment for me. I saw him talking to players like a friend. He never wanted his team-mates to take pressure. The word pressure was not in his dictionary. Sometimes he used to say loudly ‘pressure lene ka nahi, dene ka’ (Don’t take pressure, give pressure). That was his motto. This is what drove him and his team forward.
Sumit Kumar (Jharkhand cricketer)
I have a number of memories of Mahi bhai. I was groomed under his guidance. He taught me the responsibility one has when he stands behind the wickets. I still remember the Vijay Hazare tournament of 2015. I was also selected alongside Mahi bhai. It was a big opportunity and pleasure to share the dressing room with a legend like him. I have grown up watching him and always wanted to be like him. Whenever I am in doubt, I take advice from him. He has taught me a lot about wicket-keeping. I will always remember the dressing room conversations I had with him.
Ahead of the Ranji Trophy semi-final match against Gujarat in 2016-17, I was practicing. Mahi bhai was the mentor of the team that season. Mahi bhai liked one of my bats I was using in the tournament. He came and said ‘wo bat mujhe chaiye’ (I want that bat). He said he wanted to play a series with that bat. It was an India vs Sri Lanka series. I was happy to give him that bat.
Deepak Chahar (India and CSK cricketer)
Mahi bhai is an amazing leader. Bowling the beamers (in IPL 2019) was one of the biggest learning experiences of my career. That incident taught me a lot. I was bowling in the death overs. A lot of things happened in that match. Beamers, no ball, boundary and then a scolding from the captain (Dhoni). But I am happy that I could make a comeback and take a wicket. Mahi bhai scolded me but then hugged me after that incident. It is very tough to regain confidence after such deliveries and that too in the death overs. It needs a lot of courage. I made mistakes and learnt immediately from those. That incident gave a lot of confidence and helped to take my game to another level.
Iqbal Abdulla (Currently playing for Sikkim in domestic cricket)
He is a legend of the game. I will always miss him. My best memory will be the Royal Challengers Bangalore match against Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016. Virat gave me the over. Mahi bhai was on strike. I didn’t let him go over the top. He took a couple of singles and doubles. I was feeling so happy that I bowled really well against the best finisher in the world. It was a proud moment for me.
Ankit Rajpoot (UP and Rajasthan Royals cricketer)
I made my IPL debut under him for CSK in 2013. I was so excited. I was young and was really happy to earn that platform. The moment I entered the dressing room, I stood and was continuously staring at players. Mahi bhai stood and shook hands and asked me to enjoy the moment. Ahead of my debut match against Mumbai Indians, he came and said ‘be ready, you are making a debut today’. I went outside and started watching the crowd. It was a thrilling atmosphere. Mahi bhai came from behind and said – ‘Ankit, this is just the beginning. Just bowl the way you have been in the domestic matches’. He always told me one thing – read the match and the situation and bowl accordingly. That advice from him still works well for me on the field.
Trupti Murgunde (Indian badminton player)
It was the year 2006. I went to play the SAF Games in Sri Lanka. I won a gold medal there. After the gold medal finish, I went shopping with my friends. I saw Mahi there. He was also shopping with some players. Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina were also there with him. The Indian team were staying in a nearby hotel where I was staying. He had already made his mark in the international side. He had centuries to his name and was a known personality that time. The way he conducted himself on the field, his behavior and calmness was amazing. I went and introduced myself to him. We had a good chat. The best part was that we had similar hairstyles (laughs). He was very humble. I clicked photos with him. I just want to wish the legend all the best for his second innings. He has given a lot to the country.
Chandan Ray (Leg Cricketer)
It was January 2018. I will never ever forget that day. I met MS Dhoni for the first time a day before the India vs England ODI in Cuttack. I requested one of the players and because of him I could meet Mahi bhai. He took out time to have a chat with me and answered all my questions. I made him understand what leg cricket is. He told me about captaincy and leadership. He gave me a lot of tips. He emphasized on just one thing that playing for your country is a very big thing and one should take pride in that. No matter what sport you are playing, you should always take pride in it. I was so much involved in the conversation that I forgot to take a single photo with the legend. Dhoni is a true hero.
Siddhesh Lad (Mumbai and KKR cricketer)
I never got the chance to play against him but meeting him on many occasions was a big thing for me. I remember going into his room after an IPL match. He was playing PubG. I knocked on the door. He opened the door and greeted me. I sat with him for long. I discussed cricket and took a lot of tips from Dhoni bhai.