Diary of a Cricket Fan – My First Memory of MS Dhoni

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On the 74th Independence Day of India, the former Indian Men’s Cricket Team captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket, bringing the curtains down to one of the most illustrious careers, the game has ever seen.

An inspiring leader, a dependable finisher, a match-winner, the man with a Midas touch, a legend, or simply ‘Mahi’. Call him what you want. Such has been the vast legacy of the man who showed the world how a young boy from Ranchi could conquer the world with his sheer hard work, brilliance, and determination.

While the praises for arguably the greatest captain India has ever seen will continue to flow in the days and weeks to come, I am writing this article to remember the first time I heard the name Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

I was a young ten-year-old who had developed a new-grown passion for the game of cricket. My daily routine began with getting hold of the Hindi morning newspaper to flip to the sports section.

On one of those days, I came across the news of a Triangular Tournament taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, between India-A, Pakistan-A, and Kenya. Accompanying the article was the photograph of a young long-haired boy, with the fine-print reading: “Wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni”.

In those days, seeing a cricketer with long-hair, especially in India, was as rare as, well, seeing a cricketer hailing from Ranchi. The newspaper article pertained to the 3rd match of the tournament wherein India-A registered a hard-fought victory over Pakistan-A and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the highest scorer in the game with a knock of 70 runs.

On paper, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about this innings. Somehow though, I was rooting for this up and coming player and wanted to see him live on television. It was one of those rare India-A tournaments which were being telecasted.

Then came on 16 August 2004. Now that I look back, perhaps, one of the luckiest days of my life. I was about to witness the first glimpse of the magic that would engulf an entire nation for the next 16 years.

India-A played Pakistan-A in the 6th match of the tournament. India-A was sent into bat by Pakistan-A captain Misbah-Ul-Haq. After the opening stand of 38 was broken, MS Dhoni joined Gautam Gambhir at the crease and orchestrated an epic partnership of 207 runs.  Dhoni cracked a magnificent knock of 120 runs in 122 balls, sprinkled with ten fours and two sixes.

The brilliance of this day might not have been enough for Dhoni to be propelled to a national team call-up. Three days later, he ensured that he becomes undeniable to the national selectors.

On 19 August 2004, India-A once again played Pakistan-A. This time, the Pakistani skipper, Misbah-Ul-Haq decided to bat first and played a captain’s knock of 106 runs, propelling the target of 235 runs for India-A.

MS Dhoni arrived in the middle only after nine balls into the innings. Carrying on from where he left off in the previous game, he scored a splendid unbeaten, match-winning knock of 119 runs in 134 balls, which included nine fours and five humungous sixes. India-A went on to win the Triangular Tournament, and Dhoni finished the tournament as the highest run-scorer with 362 runs in 6 innings at a staggering average of 72.40.

However, the significance of this tournament goes way beyond the results and the numbers. In hindsight, this is one of the most important tournaments in the history of Indian cricket. This is where the world saw the first glimpses of the young long-haired wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand.

On the back of this performance, four months later, on 23 December 2004, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his One-Day-International debut against Bangladesh.

And the rest is history.

Written by - Snehil Kesarwani

Edited by - Chhavi Gupta

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