Arrey, yeh ladki jaisa dikhne wala, dhabhe mein khane wala , cricket kya khelega ? (How can this fellow who looks like a girl, and eats at a dhaba, play cricket? )
Coming from a place which had no history of producing cricketing star, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India, the statement may not be contradicted, but then you need one person, an event to rewrite the history, It is Mahendra Singh Dhoni(Mahi).
The MECON(Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants) residential complex in Ranchi, Jharkhand, in the suburb of Doranda, where Mahi spent is initial days.
It was a knock of 213 at the inter-school match, Mahi playing for the DAV, was a turning point says his coach Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, after which he would be selected to play at the professional level for Central Coal limited and then went on to make his first class debut on 12 January 2000 playing for Bihar against Assam.
The India A tour to kenya in 2004 would be a defining moment, hitting two centuries against Pakistan A, and after his debut ODI series against Bangladesh, he would smash 148 against Pakistan at Vizag and then his highest score of 183 against Sri Lanka at jaipur.
It was in the year 2007, South Africa when Mahi would be given an opportunity to lead a side in the inaugural edition of World Cup T20 , no one would have expected the result , but, yes, India would go on to win the World Cup.
It is not easy to Captain a side with so many experienced players and who have proved themselves in all the formats of the game, but that is Mahi for you, at his peak after winning the World Cup T20 , he would handle the responsibility deftly, later under his Captainship India would go on to win the ODI World Cup 2011 and the Championship trophy 2013.
We know Mahi as a cricketer, but not many know him as a Fauji Captain, yes, he is honorary Lt Col Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the 106 Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army, his love and respect for the Army is immense, be it his inquisitiveness to know them personally or his observation skill and curiosity to know about state of the art technology and weapons used.
Do you know the feeling of riding at 225 miles an hour and the breeze hitting your chest ? Yes, Mahi loves bike too, he has from Ducati, Harley- Davidson to the Confederate X 132 Hellcat, although, his first bike was Rx135 says his friend Seemant Lohani( Chittu).
Also, the love for the game of football, not to forget , Mahi started playing football as a goal keeper, later that skill would come in handy when he was asked to keep wicket in his school days, and now most of us know about Mahi as an unorthodox but successful wicket keeper.
Serendipity has it’s own role to play , although, Mahi could not make it to the East zone squad in the year 2001, when given a chance he did make it big. As his another friend Paramjit Singh(Chhotu) rightly says:
‘Uss raat hamara banda sahi jagah pahunch nahi paaya, lekin aakhir mein sahi jagah pahunch hi gaya life mein. ( That night, our man was not able to reach the right place ; but eventually, he did reach the right place in life.
Enga ‘Thala‘ Dhoni ka ‘Whistle Podu‘, may rightly sums up the enigmatic ‘Mahi‘.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BHARAT SUNDARESAN lives for West Indian Cricket and pro wrestling. He has covered Cricket for the Indian Express for last ten years.
Foreword by RAVI SHASTRI
PUBLISHER: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE; IMPRINT EBURY PRESS