(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Wed 31 May 2023, 2:35 AM
Watching the wave of euphoric support for Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the Narendra Modi Stadium in the enthralling IPL final, it was hard not to be swayed by emotions.
Do you remember an athlete that has evoked such an outpouring of emotions even in the backyard of its opponent?
On Monday night, it was the Gujarat Titans whose players were perhaps left wondering if the rival team was playing in front of its home crowd at the world's biggest stadium in Ahmedabad.
The Titans supporters were pushed into the small pockets of the giant stadium by the Yellow Army on an unforgettable night of cricket.
The aura of Dhoni, a quiet man who rose from the backwaters of Indian cricket, still has the public under its spell - three years after his international retirement.
Watching the Dhoni mania in the dramatic last-ball finish, the spirit of which even the rains could not diminish, one could not help but wonder if Dhoni is now on the same pedestal as Roger Federer and Lionel Messi, the two most admired athletes in the world.
The world of sports has been graced by several champions over the past two decades, but none of them have quite warmed the hearts like Federer and Messi.
It was in the summer of 2012 when we realised how Federer transcended the boundaries of a tennis court.
Britain's Andy Murray was carrying the burden of his country's expectations when he stepped on the Wimbledon centre court to face Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final.
Murray was bidding to end Britain's seven decade-long wait for a Grand Slam winner in front of his home crowd.
With Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, in the Royal Box, the tension was palpable in a country which was in the grip of Murray mania as the young Scotsman made a rousing run to the final.
But as an epic tennis fight broke out on the centre court, we saw more than half of the British fans on the centre court was rooting for the Swiss maestro.
The hallowed arena was reverberating with deafening noise when Federer finally managed to end Murray's challenge and British hopes in four riveting sets.
That was the day when Federer did the moonwalk on the world's most famous tennis court.
More than 10 years after that Wimbledon final, this reporter bumped into Brazilian and Mexican fans in Doha who were celebrating Argentina's World Cup final victory over France.
Both Brazil and Mexico share a long history of bitter rivalry with Argentina in football. But that night many from those two countries were rooting for Argentina because of Lionel Messi.
Alejandro was one of those Mexican fans who attended the final with his father Jaime, mother Bertha, brothers Mauricio and Jaime jr. and their Brazilian friend, Danilo.
Alejandro said even Danilo was supporting Argentina for Messi despite being a Brazilian.
“Argentina-Brazil is the biggest rivalry in football. Even Mexico is a big rival for Argentina in football. But we all love Messi. That's why we wanted Argentina to win,” Alejandro told this reporter.
It's possible that the vast majority of fans draped in Chennai Super Kings' yellow colours were Gujarat natives.
But it was just their love and admiration for Dhoni that elevated the IPL final on Monday night into an unprecedented emotional high.
It's the way these athletes tug at our heartstrings.
Like Federer's retirement last year which felt like watching the end of a beautiful movie.
Messi is unlikely to go on for a long time either after shaking hands with World Cup heroes Pele and Maradona in football's paradise.
And the heart of every cricketing romantic now longs for one last dance from Dhoni.
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