Single-minded in pursuit of greatness

Dhonis coach Banerjee narrates how the Indian skipper made his mark with sheer hard work

Single-minded in pursuit of greatness

It was only appropriate that the city which prides in giving the country its most successful cricket captain ever, had a world-class stadium of its own.

The sprawling, state-of-the-art Jharkhand State Cricket Association’s newly-built stadium, in a way, symbolises this eastern city’s aspirations fuelled by the success of one of its own men. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is listed on top of five well-known faces from Ranchi in an internet search. Interestingly, four of the five named are sportspersons, including archer and Olympian Deepika Kumari. The only non-sportsperson is Bollywood actor Vinay Pathak. Come to think of it, Dhoni would be one of India’s most searched persons on the internet and his meteoric rise to prominence from this hinterland is already the stuff of legends.
In his land, Dhoni is no less a legend himself. You won’t come across many here that would refer to him as Dhoni, they all call him ‘Mahi’ a shortened, affectionate version of Mahendra.

There isn’t a single soul in this city that wouldn’t know directions to his house and the auto driver carrying us to Indian skipper’s house, abruptly stops by another auto, and proudly tells the driver that he is taking us to Dhoni’s house. You can almost sense the envy in the other guy. Quite unlike the stature of the person, Dhoni’s house is quite nondescript. A few meters off Haramu Road, you would easily miss it if you don’t notice the cops stationed in front of the gate. Dhoni’s career took shape just a few kilometres from his present house, at the Mecon ground. The sports teacher of the school, Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, whose association with Dhoni began in 1987, introduced him to cricket though Dhoni was interested in many sports with football being his main passion.

“He was interested in all the sports including badminton but he developed into a good goalkeeper,” Banerjee told Deccan Herald. When Dhoni was in class seven, Banerjee offered him a spot in the school cricket team and asked if he would like to do wicketkeeping since he already was a good goalkeeper. Dhoni’s reply was ‘why not’ and the rest as they say is history.

“He had a bit of issues keeping to cricket ball,” pointed out Banerjee. “He was a more of a stopper than a catcher. But being a goalkeeper, he was used diving both sides and with a bit of training he became a very useful wicketkeeper.”

Dhoni began his Ranji Trophy career for the then undivided Bihar in 1999-2000 as an 18 year old. A year later Jharkhand was formed and Dhoni represented his new State afterwards. He caught the imagination of many during a Ranji match against Karnataka with a quick-fire innings. There is an interesting anecdote that Dhoni’s another coach at the Commando Club, Chanchal Bhattacharya, shares.

During the course of his knock, he hit Venkatesh Prasad for a boundary to get into his 90s and the canny bowler that he was Prasad scalped Dhoni off the next ball after claiming to do so. “I went and requested Prasad to tell Dhoni that 90s aren’t good enough and that he has to get 100s. Dhoni humbly said ‘next time I’ll score a 100 sir’.”

Dhoni’s dedication and discipline, Bhattacharya says, has taken him where is now. “He doesn’t make a show of the hard work he puts in. He is no show-off. During winter seasons here, he would quietly shift his base to Delhi to play cricket. He and Milind Diwakar (former Bihar cricketer) would go and train during Delhi summer when cricket is played between 4.00 pm and 7.00 pm. There were more talented players in the club at that time but Dhoni was single-minded in his pursuit.”

The Jharkhandi may not be the best batsman in the Indian side, there are others who can stake claim to that, and he certainly isn’t the most technically equipped stumper around, but Dhoni scores over others with his bloody mindedness.

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