If not for the thick security blanket thrown when he used to captain India and in the IPL, Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have probably got to meet his old friends more often in Kolkata. Now that Dhoni is neither of those, they came in hordes to watch him score a century for Jharkhand against Chhattisgarh in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match on Sunday.
And of course meet him.
From his Railway friends to his roommate to even the tea stall owner in Kharagpur who used to keep aside milk for Mahi, everyone was waiting outside the dressing room of Eden Gardens to meet the former Indian Railways ticket collector of Kharagpur station.
Kolkata has always had a special connection with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Thanks to his stint with the Railways at Kharagpur, Dhoni had many friends in Kolkata. He had played junior cricket in Kolkata.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had scored his maiden Ranji Trophy century, an unbeaten 114, for Bihar here in 2001. It was also in Kolkata that Dhoni had met his wife Sakshi.
Sunday was probably the best chance for his friends to meet Dhoni.
Leading the pack was Satya Prakash Sinha, who was witness to Dhoni’s rise from a player living on a meagre Coalfields stipend to a Railways player and then finally India.
Thomas, the tea-stall owner at Kharagpur was overwhelmed when Dhoni recognised him and spoke to him.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni could have spent more time with them at Eden Gardens but it could have created a security concern with many people poring over gates to get a closer glimpse of him.
So Dhoni shifted the ‘reunion’ to the team hotel where he had dinner with them.
Retired from Tests, sidelined in IPL after he was removed as captain of Rising Pune Supergiants, Dhoni could have done anything in the world but play in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
He however seems to be enjoying his time away from limelight being the old Mahi again --- travelling by train, staying in less expensive hotels, meeting friends, sharing dinner with them. This Mahi is returning to his roots again.