Towards the end of August, 2013, my son and a few of his school-mates (from CNM School, Mumbai) were given the opportunity to act in a commercial for Aircel. They were told that a very important cricketer would be featuring in the commercial and that he would shoot with them. As expected all the children, about 8-10 of them, were very excited and landed up for the shoot very early in the morning. The suspense was unbearable and when the children were told that it would be M. S. Dhoni, the ripple of excitement and awe was to be seen to be believed. All the parents who accompanied the children were equally excited.

While we waited in the sidelines to see the whole process of the shooting of the commercial, nobody noticed when M. S. Dhoni actually entered the area. There was absolutely no fanfare and no running around of spot boys or directors to receive him. It was only much later that we realized that the huge van which had entered the parking area, was his. When he started shooting for the commercial, it was obvious to all of us parents that he was indeed a man with his head on his shoulders. There was no complaining about the sun, the make-up (hardly any), the clothes (a track suit), lack of an air-conditioned area (a separate simple tent had been put up for him and the people from the ad agency), etc. He quietly followed the instructions given by the directors and the cameraman and did his work as professionally as could be done. All the while he was interacting with the children too. He was talking to them, answering their questions and giving them general tips on cricketing. The Sreesanth controversy was still fresh in everybody’s mind and we parents were itching to get some time to meet him and speak to him.

We did not get the opportunity to do so, but the children had a lot to say to us parents, at the end of the shoot. Dhoni had answered every question of theirs in a principled manner. When one of the children asked him about the Sreesanth controversy, he immediately told them to focus on cricket, the game, and not the controversy. He told them that they should concentrate more on cricketing techniques. Another boy tried to get sound bytes on who his favourite on the team was, and Dhoni once again refused to comment on the same. He insisted that the whole team was one. When another child who had met another prominent, then brash and young cricketer at another shoot, commented about his egoistic ways, Dhoni straight-forwardly told all the children to learn about the laurels the cricketers brought to the game and the country and not to indulge in mud-slinging. The impressionable teenagers were taken in completely by his stance and their respect for him went quite a few notches higher, and the rest of the queries were only about the game.

According to John Wooden, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” There was no media, no other elders, nobody watching Dhoni on that day. He could have easily spoken against anybody; after all who would believe a child if he quoted Dhoni. But Dhoni was a real hero, a real gentleman. By directing the children to stay away from useless chatter and by helping them get the maximum benefit from meeting him, he earned the respect of all the children and their elders. I had carried a book on the Vedanta with me that day & I ended up gifting the book, which he accepted with simplicity.

Later, my son became the captain of one of the basketball teams in his school and won the cup in a tournament. His first act was to thank every single member of his team individually on his Facebook page; next, he gave the winning cup to one of his team member to take home, so that he could get appreciation from his parents for doing well in sports. When his team had to settle for Silver in another sport, football, all my son said was, “The other team played well and won the gold.” Thank you, M.S. Dhoni, for teaching my son to become a true Captain and stay away from any talk which reduces the stature of being a good human being. Till today the boy (he’s grown up now) cherishes his meeting with the real ‘Captain Cool’.

Best wishes to M. S. Dhoni for his new innings in life after retirement from Cricket.

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