India's first cricket captain CK Nayudu was the son of a Rai Bahadur. After him came Sir Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, a Maharajkumar of Vizianagram. Their successors Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi were from royal families. India's most successful Test captain overseas Saurav Ganguly was popularly known as Maharaja, befitting his privileged life.
Other cricketing legends such as Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar were from humble backgrounds but came either from schools that had a history of producing reputed cricketers or from cities that were cricketing hubs.
But in 2004, a player debuted for Team India, whose state team, Jharkhand, was not even represented regularly in Ranji Trophy. In-fact, he was a player who switched between tennis ball and synthetic ball cricket because not everywhere in Jharkhand (then undivided Bihar) was the game played with synthetic balls at club level.
His name was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose eventual rise in Indian cricket inspired millions of youngsters in small town India to dream big not just in the field of sports but to strive for excellence in whatever they did.
"Not just in cricket, be it in any field, Dhoni made people from small towns, be it Ranchi, Dumka , Jamshedpur or Giridih dream big. There was the feeling that if he can do it, we too can," said Satish Singh, former cricketer and coach of Gaya district team, who presently works as an engineer and lives in Jamshedpur.
"Even kids in Jharkhand who didn't dream of being a cricketer felt motivated by his success story and wanted to excel in whatever field they are."
Venkat Ram, a former Bihar captain and presently the coach of Jharkhand cricket squad, said there was a time when cricketers of Jharkhand and Bihar dreaming to play for India went to Bengal or the East Zone as they knew that they won't be able to catch the selectors' eyes if they played for their home teams.
"Saba Karim and Subroto Banerjee from Bihar are examples who went to Bengal to play cricket. But post Dhoni, things changed and players like Varun Aaron and Saurabh Tiwari are examples of it," he said. Both Aaron and Tiwari have bagged Team India caps.
Saumya Kishan Singh, a successful professional hailing from Jamshedpur, said, "Dhoni taught us to dream big and live with a pride. There is a pride in saying that you are from Jharkhand. This has been due to Mahi."