Gone are the days when talent alone was the criteria for selection in the national team. Players, who were extremely talented, but unfit at the same time used to don the jerseys of their national cricket team.

How times have changed now! In this day and age, it doesn’t matter how capable and gifted a player is. If he is not fit enough, he is not good enough. The fitness revolution in Indian cricket started when MS Dhoni took charge of the team. Dhoni has always believed the fittest X1 is the best X1. Under Dhoni’s leadership, Indian team has seen a massive transformation. India were never known for their fielding, so how did they manage to become the best fielding unit in the world.

MS Dhoni has always believed in selecting fit players even if it means dropping a big-name cricketer from the playing X1. A good captain always leads from the front. Dhoni himself is a fitness fanatic. The former India captain will turn 37 next month but even in the twilight of his career, Dhoni remains one of the fittest cricketers in the world. Dhoni’s fitness mantra is a strict diet plan. The Jharkhand lad has sacrificed some of his favourite foods like butter chicken, soft drinks, chocolates and milkshakes to remain fit and strong for his on-field duties.

At an awards function this month, Dhoni spoke at length about his strict diet and fitness regime. “You have to change. You can’t keep doing the same thing expecting different results. My food habits have changed from the time I made my debut. Then, it used to be butter chicken, naan, milkshakes, a lot of chocolates and soft drinks. But once I touched 28, the chocolates and milkshakes were off, and after a few years, soft drinks were off too. Then after retirement from Test cricket in 2015 only healthy ingredients and kebabs came in.”

Besides the health conscious food, the rowing machine has also helped Dhoni stay fit. “In Chennai during IPL 11, I had a rowing machine in my room. I would get up, call for my breakfast and before it came in, I would do my rowing,” revealed Dhoni.

Even at the age of 36, the former India captain can give young cricketers a run for their money. When Dhoni’s form with the bat was heavily scrutinized last year, Team India head coach Ravi Shastri was quoted as saying. “We are not stupid. I have been watching this sport for the last 30-40 years. Virat has been a part of this team for a decade now. We know, at this age, Dhoni can beat players aged 26. People who talk, forget that they played the game.”

Chief selector MSK Prasad also made it clear that none of the younger guys have quite yet matched upto Dhoni, a statement that was echoed by Ravi Shatri.

“If they look at themselves in the mirror and ask the question, ‘what they were at the age of 36?’. Would they have run two runs faster? But the time they finish two, this guy will run three. Then he has won only two World Cups and averages only 51. Till today you don’t have a wicket-keeper to replace him in the one-day team,” he asserted.

In the recently-concluded IPL 11, Dhoni amassed 455 runs to help Chennai Super Kings win their third title. The fitness levels he demonstrated in the nearly two-month long tournament were unparalleled. Dhoni’s running between the wickets was as quick as it was in his heydays. Nobody knows when Dhoni will hang up his boots. Mahi is known for his surprising decisions and perhaps his announcement of retirement will come when it is least expected. Dhoni’s fitness and recent performances, though, makes it evidently clear that he still has a lot of cricket left in him. Perhaps, even more than MSD himself believes.

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