Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of the Indian squad in limited overs cricket, on Friday started a physical and mental fitness regimen far more rigorous than his usual cricketing ones to become a qualified para-trooper.
Dhoni, one of the highest paid athletes in the world, is an honorary lieutenant colonel in 106 Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army (TA) and has decided to justify his rank.
"His two-week training will now start with classroom lessons followed by basic toughening exercises along with fellow paratrooper trainees," said group captain Basantkumar B Pande, public relations officer (defence), Allahabad and Lucknow.
Captain Cool, as he is popularly known, reported at the Indian Army's 50 Para Brigade for his basic training in Agra late on Thursday evening. He will undergo the training at the Indian Air Force's Paratroopers Training School (PTS).
In these two-weeks, he will take classroom lectures on basic techniques of para-jumping followed by toughening exercises to help prepare the body for the jerks and jolts involved in jumping off a aircraft with a parachute. It will also include the regular pre-jump mock drill in a hall where he will undergo the motions of a para-jump in a large hall by jumping off a platform with a rope attached for support.
It is only after this that he will be allowed to board an AN-32 - a Russian built front line transport/cargo aircraft of Indian Air Force - to make his first jump as a paratrooper. To qualify as a parachute jumper, he will have to do a minimum of five jumps from a height of 10,000 feet off a plane—four during the day and one at night.
Dhoni, who already sports the maroon paratrooper beret which is a sign of having been commissioned in the elite Para Regiment, would earn the right to wear the coveted Para Wings insignia only after making a minimum of five successful para-jumps.
While Dhoni is the first cricketer in the world to train as a paratrooper, he is not the first or only sportsperson to attain an honorary TA rank—cricketer Kapil Dev and shooter Abhinav Bindra too were 'commissioned'. But Dhoni is definitely the first one to actually work for the 'wings' on his olive greens.
Dhoni was conferred the honorary rank of a Lt Col in the TA, a part of the regular army, in November 2011 and had said that his first ambition was to become an army officer but destiny steered him into cricket.
At that time, some had even criticised the decision to commission him into a parachute regiment saying he did not know how to jump off a plane. But now MSD, who is a man with many passions, will attempt the most risky task ever in his life to show he can.