Fans can't have enough of Dhoni

Fans can't have enough of Dhoni

Cynosure

Fans can't have enough of Dhoni

When you are a certain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, you are bound to attract a strong following no matter where you play in the country. At the Alur grounds on the outskirts of the City here, a mix of his die-hard fans made its way as early as 7.30 am, not just to watch the famed ‘helicopter shot’ up close but with hopes of getting a memorable selfie clicked.

From software engineers to students and from daily-wage labourers to a couple of barbers, around 200 people gathered at the facility, cheering his arrival to the crease at 10.29 am with loud claps and whistles before sinking into disappointment after the Jha­rkhandi edged a ball to Parvez Rasool (first slip) at 10.56 am.

“I read in a cricketing app last night that Dhoni would be playing for Jharkhand here and I immediately rang up my room-mates and made plans to come here,” said Athiyaman, who hails from Salem, Tamil Nadu, and works for a software company here. “We all work in the night shift and returned home at 3.30 am. Although we have seen Dhoni play earlier, we wanted to come here because we hope we can get a photograph with him considering this is a small venue.”

His friend and room-mate Vigneshwar, who hails from Tanjore, echoed the same thoughts. “We reached the place around 7 am but the security guards didn’t allow us. We bribed them with Rs 1,400 for four of us to be allowed inside. We hoped he will score a century. It’s disappointing to see him get out so quickly. However, considering he is going to play the entire tournament, we will come again to watch him.”

While Vigneshwar and his friends apparently paid to sneak in that was actually free for all, Manjunath, who runs a men’s parlour in nearby Nelamangala, flashed a bar of chocolate that he wished to gift his idol. “I’ve never seen a match-winner like Dhoni,” said Manjunath, who was keenly discussing the Ram Slam T20 Challenge semifinal match between Cape Cobras and Dolphins. “I bought this chocolate only for Dhoni. I know its a very small gift to what he can afford, but that’s something I want to give. I just hope I get a chance to me­et him after the game. That would be a dream come true.”

While Dhoni’s fans came pregnant with hopes of seeing a big knock, the man himself had a forgettable return to the domestic circuit (after a gap of eight years) against Jammu and Kashmir in the Vijay Hazare Trophy Group B encounter. Coming at the dismissal of Saurabh Tiwary with the score reading 73/3, Dhoni, looking leaner and younger, struggled for most part of his stay. One of the biggest hitters in world cricket, the 34-year-old meandered to a 24-ball 9, even conceding a maiden to Wasim Raza. His only boundary was a top edge to mid-wicket as he struggled to force the pace.

Dhoni adorned the gloves after lunch and even was seen marshalling the troops altho­ugh Varun Aaron is the designated skipper of the team. He doled out the instructions, made the bowling changes in hope of making amends for the batting failure. Thankfully, his team-mates too responded well with a spirited performance as they eked out a hard-fought five-run win.

J&K players then surrou­nded Dhoni for selfies before inviting him to their dressing room for words of advice. Dhoni obliged, then posed for a photo with the ground staff, signed autographs and finally chatted with his own team players, marking his return to domestic cricket.

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