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Explained: MS Dhoni’s farewell song ‘main pal do pal ka shayar’

MS Dhoni retires: On the surface, the raw slideshow is a timeline of a 16-year-long storied career. But that's too primitive for a player renowned as one of cricket's greatest minds.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt , Edited by Explained Desk , with input from Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 18, 2020 11:54:29 am
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Just like MS Dhoni, there’s more to his farewell video then meets the eye. On the surface, the raw slideshow is a timeline of a 16-year-long storied career. But that’s too primitive for a player renowned as one of cricket’s greatest minds.

The song, ‘Pal Do Pal Ka Shaayar’ from ‘Kabhie Kabhie’, was an old favourite and perhaps the only choice for Dhoni. The photos too have been curated meaningfully. Everyone important makes the cut, but scratch the surface a little and the subtext speaks a lot more. Through timing and placement, the lines of poet Sahir Ludhianvi align beautifully with Dhoni’s memories.

The result is bittersweet nostalgia, and the ultimate exercise of what the author is trying to convey in these sentences and stills.

Pal do pal meri jawaani hai

Mukesh croons the reprise about the fleeting youth, and the video lingers just a little longer on Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh; two 24-year-olds beaming ear-to-ear, having chased down 288 in Lahore. A target potent enough to make a mid-noughties India fan nervous — especially when Sachin Tendulkar falls in the 90s and Mohd Kaif, Yuvraj’s usual partner-in-crime, for a duck. In walks the copper-haired fledgeling and smashes 72 off 46.

Six days and one ODI later, Dhoni, promoted ahead of Kaif, joins Yuvraj in Karachi and the pair chase down 286. India, say hello to your new finishers. Dhoni and Yuvraj would share 10 century stands in total, all resulting in wins.

The second reprise is accompanied by another Dhoni-Yuvi moment, one year later in Kingsmead. The celebratory fist-bump seen around the world, part of every ‘Yuvraj Singh six sixes’ montage. It’s been 13 years but the adrenaline rush makes it seem like yesterday. ‘Pal do pal’ indeed.

Mujhse pehle kitne shayar aaye/Aaye aur aakar chale gaye

Like the second verse, Dhoni too reminisces.

Dissecting farewell speeches, analysing the name-dropping and dropping of names gives way to speculations. The video though covers it all — the seniors (fantastic four, fab five, superb six, take your pick) and the contemporaries — the Delhi openers and the Punjabi superstars.

Kuch aahein bharkar laut gaye

Retirements are seldom cordial. Testy conferences and spicy reports spoke of Dhoni’s rifts with seniors, who felt hard done by supposed unceremonious exits during his captaincy.

Dhoni was missing from VVS Laxman’s dinner party and from Sehwag’s thank you note to former captains. Both appear in Dhoni’s farewell video. And not the ‘group shot’ treatment either, everybody gets a personal frame with the man of the hour.

The photo choices are interesting. The video includes a still from the 109-run World Cup-winning partnership between Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir. This is after Gambhir chided fans for their “obsession” with Dhoni’s match-winning six and reminded everyone that the 2011 World Cup “was won by entire India, entire Indian team & all support staff”.

Kuch nagme gaakar chale gaye

Then there are seniors who sing songs.

“For me, MS gave hope and showed nothing is impossible. He was talented and talent is something that will find its way,” Sachin Tendulkar wrote for this newspaper. “If somebody is talented, nobody can stop him.”

His first captain Sourav Ganguly, whose faith in Dhoni sent the keeper up the order, and Anil Kumble, who passed the torch as Test skipper midway into the home series against Australia in 2008, make an appearance.

Kal aur aayenge/Nagmo ki khilti kaliyan chunne wale/Mujhse behtar kehne wale/Tumse behtar sunne wale

Mukesh looks towards tomorrow. In Dhoni’s case, the future has already been here for a while.

A sequence of individual photos makes way for Virat Kohli’s Team India, with its leader front and centre. What follows are group shots with Dhoni in the background, or hanging out with Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and others.

Kal koi mujhko yaad kare/Kyun koi mujhko yaad kare

A stretch of the video has you playing ‘Where’s Wally?’, scrambling to locate Dhoni, hidden in a sea of blue-clad cricketers huddled around trophies. He could invariably be found in the back row or to the side, arms around the younger members of the team. The message is obvious. “These are the men for the job now, and for years to come. Why should anybody look for me tomorrow?”

Masroof zamana mere liye/Kyun waqt apna barbad kare

The lines are melancholic but in Dhoni’s case, they could very well mean: “Buzz off, don’t bother me.”

Scattered throughout the video are photos which could be glimpses of his retirement life.

Perhaps Dhoni would still be teeing off, only in a different sport. If not golf, there’s always the fascination with the military, represented in the video with a photo with an artillery gun and another from the ‘combat cap’ cricket match last year. There’s also simulated combat, as multiple photos from his paintball sessions suggest.

Kal nayi kopalein footengi, kal naye phool muskaayenge/aur nayi ghaas ke naye farsh par naye paanv ithlayenge,
Vo mere beech nahi aaye, main unke beech me kyo aaun? unki subah aur shaamo ka, main ek bhi lamha kyo paaun?

Dhoni knows a thing or two about finishing. An illustrious international career, bookended by runouts, finished with a flourish of irony as well. In a sport often compared to religion and the players to demigods, Dhoni, acutely aware of a cricketer’s mortality, features both runouts in all their few-inches-short agony. It is also why the video includes scenes of Dhoni’s effigies being burned back home after India’s first-stage exit from the 2007 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

The video ends with Amitabh Bachchan’s spoken word section, philosophising the said transience. “Tomorrow, fresh grass turf will welcome fresh dancing feet.

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They didn’t come in my way, why should I come in theirs,” goes the song, and video reserves a long chunk for the failures: photo of Dhoni looking on from a morose pavilion as India crash out of the 2019 World Cup against New Zealand.

For fans though, there’s respite in the yellow of Chennai Super Kings, and relief in the second part of Mukesh’s song: Main Har Ek Pal Ka Shaayar Hoon.

Rishton ka roop badalta hai/Buniyadein khatam nahi hoti

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