Before the Indian Premier League (IPL) propelled him to stardom, Saurabh Tiwary was a lesser known cricketer.
In Jharkhand, the land of Dhoni, a land that's devoid of big cricket stars, even captaining the East Zone at 20, the youngest to do so, didn't earn him instant recognition.
"People knew me before but never so well. Now, almost everyone recognises me. It feels great when they call out my name," says the left-hand batsman.
He is often referred to as Dhoni II, not just because he comes from the same state, but also for his haircut, very similar to the look that the India skipper sported when in his early days for the country. If anything though, Tiwary's batting is more stylish, and his conspicuous use of the wrists give him an ability to find gaps regularly. Dhoni hits hard, Tiwary mixes it up well.
And he is aware of the comparison. "He is the India skipper and unlike me, a right-hand batsman," he says on phone from Ranchi. "I've played just four matches with him and he comes across as very helpful, always advising on every aspect of the game, including behaviour, on and off the field.
Sachin Tendulkar has been an even bigger help. Tiwary feels he has become a better cricketer after rubbing shoulders with the Little Master. "Just playing with the God of cricket is an achievement. I've seen the standard of my game rise automatically, just by being with him. He is composed and knows how to explain everything."
"Hope I get through to the India A side. That's my first target," says Tiwary. Then, it'll be back to the domestic grind, though without the IPL spotlight. Playing for Jharkhand, a plate division team in the Ranji Trophy, doesn't bother him. "It is not as bad as it was when Dhoni broke into the national side. Now, at least we are on the map." And he knows how important it is. "You get all this IPL fame only because of performances in Ranji and other first-class games."