Why is BCCI retiring Mahendra Singh Dhoni's iconic jersey no. 7?

The former India captain and one of Indian cricket's all-time greats has his reasons for the obsession with the number seven

MS Dhoni with his jersey no. 7 (photo: @msdfansofficial/X)
MS Dhoni with his jersey no. 7 (photo: @msdfansofficial/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is suddenly back in the news. Only a few weeks after it was confirmed that he will be back as the captain-player of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL (Indian Premier League) 2024 for one more time, comes the news that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is set to ‘retire’ his iconic no. 7 jersey. 

There has been no official confirmation available, but a report in the Indian Express claims that arguably India's most successful cricket captain will become the second player after Sachin Tendulkar (jersey no. 10) to be bestowed this honour. The only difference being Tendulkar’s jersey was retired in 2017 — four years after he quit international cricket and stopped playing IPL — while Dhoni remains the IPL's biggest calling card for the coming season. 

Incidentally, the thala (leader) of Chennai still wears the no. 7 shirt, so BCCI's move will kick off speculation if the timing of the retirement of the jersey has anything to do with a subtle build-up to IPL 2024, the ‘last chance’ to see Dhoni in action. It also helps that the IPL mini-auction is scheduled to be held in Dubai on Tuesday, 19 December. 

Dhoni’s love affair with the number seven, ever since he chose this number on his international debut back in 2004, prompted much speculation until he cleared the air during a promotional event last year. ‘’A lot of people initially thought seven was a lucky number for me and all that. But I chose the number for a very simple reason. I was born on 7 July. So it’s the seventh day of the seventh month, that was the reason,’’ MSD said during a virtual interaction. 

Incidentally, jersey no. 7 was made iconic by footballing superstars like David Beckham, Raul and finally, Cristiano Ronaldo or CR7. Dhoni brought it to cricket and back in 2013, very much at the peak of his powers, he launched his own perfume line 7 by MS Dhoni with much fanfare in Dubai. Beauty Contact, a Dubai-based company which specialised in celebrity perfumes and beauty products, had developed the range in collaboration with Dhoni's managers Rhiti Sports Management, though the line wasn’t much of a commercial success. 

Dhoni launches the perfume line '7 by MS Dhoni' in Dubai in 2013 (photo: Rhiti Sports)
Dhoni launches the perfume line '7 by MS Dhoni' in Dubai in 2013 (photo: Rhiti Sports)

Retiring jersey numbers of legendary players has been an old sporting tradition, albeit limited to club football. No one at the Italian Serie A club Napoli wears no. 10 since it is a number forever connected to their greatest ever — Diego Maradona, who single-handedly won them the league titles in 1987 and 1990.  

Another example are Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam, who retired their no. 14 shirt in honour of the legendary Johan Cryuff, who won the Eredivisie title eight times and the European Cup (UEFA Champions League in its current avatar) three times, before going on to manage it with success. 

Interestingly enough, the BCCI’s gesture of retiring national jersey numbers is somewhat unique as it has thus far been a practice only among clubs or franchises. Even Brazil and Argentina are yet to retire the no. 10 shirts of Pele and Maradona, with the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Neymar and Messi inheriting the valued numbers. 

After the BCCI retired Tendulkar’s no. 10 shirt, allrounder Shardul Thakur once took the field wearing no. 10 and was promptly trolled by fans on social media. “Trying to be Sachin” was the trending hashtag then as the BCCI intervened and Thakur switched to 54. 

Among the current India players, the Big Two — Virat Kohli and captain Rohit Sharma — wear no. 18 and 45 respectively. A few years down the line, it may not come as a surprise if those jerseys are folded away in the post-Kohli and post-Rohit era. 

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