On the road leading to the JSCA stadium in Dhurwa stands a huge billboard announcing the arrival of Test cricket in Ranchi. Skippers Virat Kohli and Steve Smith take up either side of the billboard, with a small box carefully cropped out at the top left to make space for MS Dhoni’s picture. Everything about that billboard said Dhoni’s picture wasn’t an afterthought.
Cricket in Ranchi is and will always be synonymous with Dhoni. So, when it’s time for the highest format of cricket to make its foray, Ranchi made sure Dhoni is also honoured despite his Test retirement. “Many in Ranchi are still coming to grips with the absence of Dhoni,” the former skipper’s school coach, Keshav Banerjee, told HT.
“But we all knew this was supposed to happen one day. He took a practical decision to retire from Tests and people have got enough time to get used to it. It’s still a little saddening though.”
DHONI MISSES A SPECIAL MARK
Had Dhoni played this Test as captain, Ranchi would have had the distinction of its favourite son leading India in its debut match in all three formats. “It could have been some record you know…the home boy leading the country in Ranchi’s first T20, ODI and Test,” said Chanchal Bhattacharya, Dhoni’s first senior coach.
“We never thought Ranchi would host a Test. And now when it’s happening, Dhoni isn’t playing. Not just Ranchi, whole of Jharkhand is mourning that Dhoni won’t play this Test. You feel bad. But he has already taken his decision. I hope people still come to watch the Test, though they won’t get to see Dhoni in whites,” said Bhattacharya.
For all the overflowing emotion here, Dhoni is far away in Delhi for Jharkhand’s Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinal against Vidarbha on Wednesday. To the Indian team, that’s an unprecedented scenario too. Matches in Ranchi meant sumptuous team dinners at his house or small trips around the town with Dhoni showing the places where he grew up.
KUMBLE HOPING FOR SAME SUPPORT
“Without MS it might look different,” admitted India coach Anil Kumble. “I know he is playing for Jharkhand, but I hope he can make it someday. I hope Ranchi people come and support us on this historic moment.”
Dhoni’s family has been invited to watch the Test. With the Vijay Hazare Trophy final scheduled on Sunday, there is some hope Dhoni might make it back in time to watch his team mates at his backyard.
But Banerjee wants Dhoni to focus on the job at hand.
“If Jharkhand win the quarterfinal, he won’t be back soon. But we all want him to go on and win the final. Maybe he can visit the stadium after that.”