Bangladesh and India have become the fiercest rivals in Asian cricket over the last few years and that rivalry has often resulted in unsavoury incidents, mostly through hatred spawned over social media by the warring fanbases of the two neighbouring countries.
There are, however, a few icons from both countries who have remained above the bickerings and garnered respect from beyond the border as much as within.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of those very few.
The wicketkeeper-batsman from small town of Ranchi, who announced his retirement from international cricket on Saturday at the age of 39, is no less of an icon among the Bangladeshi cricket fans as well as the Bangladesh cricketers.
From the world’s best all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan to the tempestuous Sabbir Rahman, everyone in the Tigers’ camp was unison in showing their respect to Dhoni as soon as ‘Captain Cool’ announced his retirement through an Instagram post on Saturday evening.
Shakib, on his official Facebook account, wrote: “Farewell to a great player and an even better opponent- MS Dhoni. Your time in international cricket has been exceptional and inspiring to millions. We only wish you the best in your future endeavors.”
Dhoni has been famous for his cool demeanour on and off the field. The 39-year-old has steered his country and his IPL franchise to victory on countless occasions with his speculative batting, super-effective keeping and extraordinary captaincy.
Mahmudullah Riyad, who is believed to be one of the coolest heads in the Bangladesh camp, himself drew comparison with the Indian legend through this Facebook post: “You have been a great inspiration in my cricket career.I really admire & look upto your cricketing ability, decision makings & most of all your calmness no matter what situation you are in! I was really sad when I just heard your announcement. Thank you Mahi bhai. #Legend #Captaincool”
Sabbir Rahman, the out-of-favour Bangladesh batsman, could be the polar opposite of both Dhoni and Mahmudullah. The batsman from Rajshahi has often got into trouble with fans and cricket officials for his antics and tempestuous nature. Yet he was equally saddened to see Dhoni leave international cricket.
Sabbir posted a picture of himself with the former India captain on his Facebook page with this comment: “This is heartbreaking. Thank you for giving cricket so much memorable moments for long time. Cricket will missed you!”
Incidentally MS Dhoni made his international debut against Bangladesh, in an ODI in Chattogram on December 23, 2004. Breaking into the team under Saurav Ganguly, Dhoni had failed to score a single run in that match which India won by 11 runs.
But since then the man from Ranchi has only grown in stature, scoring tons of runs and racking up scores of dismissals in all forms of cricket, not to mention three world titles he led India to over the past decade-and-a-half. Former Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who made his international debut barely six months after Dhoni, has seen his side on the wrong end of results when playing against neighbours India during this period.
Rahim, a very different sort of character to Dhoni, might have taken a leaf or two out of Dhoni’s book as he pursues to be one of the best in the business. The former Bangladesh captain has only words of praise for the man he would be happy to emulate. “True genius of the game, living legend and a champion. Congratulations Mahi bhai on an outstanding career.”