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MS Dhoni announces international retirement

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MS Dhoni has announced his retirement from international cricket, bringing an end to the top-flight career of one of India's greatest limited-overs cricketers, and its most successful captain. He is the only captain to lift all three ICC trophies - the 50-over World Cup, the T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy - and he also took India to the top of the ICC Test rankings.

Dhoni, 39, took to Instagram to make his announcement, putting up a slideshow of images from his career, with the caption: "Thanks - Thanks a lot for ur love and support throughout.from 1929 hrs consider me as Retired." (sic)

While the post didn't specify it, the retirement is only from international cricket, and Dhoni will play for Chennai Super Kings in the upcoming IPL 2020. He arrived in Chennai on Friday for Super Kings' short camp at Chepauk ahead of IPL 2020, which will be played in the UAE from September 19 to November 10. Kasi Viswanathan, the Super Kings CEO, had recently said that the team expected Dhoni to play for the franchise even after retirement, till at least 2022.

Earlier in January this year, N Srinivasan, the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, owners of the Super Kings franchise, had said that Dhoni would be retained by the team going into the mega auction for the 2021 IPL.

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The announcement meant Dhoni's final international match would remain his 350th ODI: the World Cup 2019 semi-final against New Zealand in July 2019. Dhoni made 50 off 72 balls in that game before being beaten by a rocket throw from Martin Guptill by inches as India exited the tournament. Dhoni hasn't played any competitive cricket since then and had only resumed proper training with Super Kings in March before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

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Dhoni also played 90 Test matches and 98 T20Is in an international career that began in December 2004. His statistics are outstanding: more than 15,000 international runs across formats, 16 centuries, and more than 800 dismissals as wicketkeeper.

"It is the end of an era," Sourav Ganguly, Dhoni's first international captain and now the president of BCCI, said in a statement. "What a player he has been for the country and world cricket. His leadership qualities have been something which will be hard to match, especially in the shorter format of the game. His batting in one-day cricket in his early stages made the world stand up and notice his flair and sheer natural brilliance. Every good thing comes to an end and this has been an absolutely brilliant one.

"He has set the standards for the wicketkeepers to come and make a mark for the country. He will finish with no regrets on the field. An outstanding career; I wish him the best in life."

But Dhoni's legacy stretches far beyond the numbers: he will be remembered, as both batsman and captain, for his unconventional style and his ability to remain calm in the face of the severest pressure. That shone through in his biggest moment on the world stage, closing out the World Cup final in Mumbai in 2011 with a six to put the icing on a match-winning 91*. In one of the other massive matches of his career, the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, he threw the ball to Joginder Sharma for the last over instead of the more experienced Harbhajan Singh. And it worked.

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Dhoni's life story was unusual enough to warrant a biopic. His roots, in the cricketing backwaters of Ranchi; his early working life as a ticket inspector for Indian Railways; and the way he burst on to the scene, long-haired, fearless, and big, beefy hitting. Within a couple of years he was captaining India's fledgling T20I side in the inaugural T20 World Cup; it was, famously, an event the BCCI did not take seriously. India's win, however, changed world cricket by giving a huge fillip to the IPL - a tournament that was already in the works - and further establishing the BCCI as the pre-eminent global power.

In the years that followed, Dhoni's India had results on the field to match that financial clout. His captaincy was based on his cool, almost computer-like brain, and his ability to not allow the pressure of long-term results to determine his tactics. Along with coach Gary Kirsten, he put his senior performers in a comfortable place, and they returned the favour with some of their best years in international cricket.

The 2011 World Cup win was the peak of his career; after that, he had to contend with an ageing team and the toll that non-stop cricket was taking on his own body, especially his back. His batting changed and he cut down on the pyrotechnics for a more calculated approach to batting, especially when among the tail. Towards the end of his career, though, he came in for criticism as his batting slowed down, something that came to the fore during the 2019 World Cup defeat against England. In a chase of 338, Dhoni managed 42 off 31 balls, with India eventually losing by 31 runs despite having five wickets in hand.

No appraisal of Dhoni would be complete without mentioning his formidable record in the IPL, where he will still be active. He's been the face of the Super Kings franchise for its entire existence, either side of its two-year ban, leading them to three titles and five runners-up finishes. Dhoni also captained Super Kings to the Champions League T20 titles in 2010 and 2014.