“Ghar jaao, rest kaaro, (go home and rest).” With these words to journalists, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, wearing shades, stubble and a Jharkhand floppy, stepped on to the Eden turf here on Thursday. Two bat handles peeped out of his camouflage-coloured shoulder bag as he went out to join Jharkhand teammates for a training session. Nearly two hours later, one of them became a weapon to destroy the white cricket ball.
More of that later.
Forget going home, for the next four hours and more that, India’s most successful skipper was at Eden Gardens --- some of which overlapped with the country’s second-most successful cricket captain Sourav Ganguly --- every move Dhoni made was scrutinised.
Through an overnight train journey from Ranchi and staying with the team at a hotel near Eden Gardens whose opulence wouldn’t match the one he is used to staying in while representing India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni may be trying to blend in, be just another member of the Jharkhand squad for the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Should the team decide to stay in Kalyani, some 51km away from Kolkata, where they play on Tuesday, Mahendra SIngh Dhoni, 23rd on Forbes’ list of the world’s best paid athletes in 2015, will be at the CAB’s academy lodgings there, said team manager PN Singh.
The chief attraction at Eden
But everyone at the Eden on Thursday let it be known to Dhoni that he was the cynosure.
So, it fit that traffic would stop and hand-held devices would become cameras outside the club house because Dhoni was on the right window seat at the rear of the team bus. It seemed like the India team had come calling, minus the stifling security cordon.
“I haven’t spent much time with him, am looking forward to doing that,” said Virat Singh, who starred in last week’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final with an unbeaten 48-ball 74.
“There are no words to express what it means to be sharing a dressing room with MS Dhoni,” said the left-hand bat.
“I am not scared of him but I keep my distance… (However,) I hope I can speak to him about his leadership qualities and the ability to stay cool under pressure.”
Dhoni at the nets
Mahendra Singh Dhoni will keep wickets, said Singh. He didn’t train for that but went through the other drills and played a game of football. He bowled off-spin longer than he batted.
Facing the faster bowlers – Varun Aaron wasn’t there because of a stomach bug --- Dhoni did struggle with his timing as someone without competitive cricket for over three weeks would but still hit Vikas Singh hard enough for the bowler to need treatment.
To the spinners, he opened those broad shoulders more frequently. Reason enough for curious onlookers and more to come and see on Saturday whether “Mahi maar raha hai,” against Karnataka.