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How MS Dhoni’s pledge to play vs Pakistan ‘even with one leg’ won selector’s heart

MS Dhoni defied all odds while battling a back injury to show up fit for Asia Cup match against Pakistan last year.

cricket Updated: Aug 28, 2017 15:43 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
MS Dhoni,India national cricket team,Pakistan national cricket team
MS Dhoni managed to shock national chief selector MSK Prasad through sheer willpower. (Reuters)

India’s national chief selector MSK Prasad has revealed how MS Dhoni fought against all odds and took part in their key encounter against arch rivals Pakistan, in the Asia Cup last year.

Dhoni was grappling with a back injury so severe that Prasad spotted the then Indian captain near a swimming pool in the team hotel, struggling to even walk. Dhoni had sustained the injury while training at a gym late in the night, but he showed up for the match in all readiness, saying, ‘Even if my one leg is not there, I will still play against Pakistan’.

Prasad was left more than worried over the situation, and despite Dhoni’s repeated assurances he decided to arrange for a replacement. While Prasad did what he thought was right, little did he imagine that Dhoni, who was crawling at that point, would turn up fit for the game against Pakistan.

“While training at the gym late in the night, Dhoni picked up weights and suddenly there was a catch in his back and fell with the weight. Thankfully, the weight did not fall on him.

“He could not walk, he was literally crawling. He pressed the alarm bell, and the medical staff immediately came and attended him. He was taken on stretcher,” Prasad was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

“As I reached Dhaka, the journalists questioned about Dhoni and I had no answers. The game against Pakistan was crucial, that too, it was on a seaming track. So, I went to Dhoni’s room to know what the issue was. He said, ‘don’t worry MSK bhai’. I even asked him what should I tell the scribes, and the answer again was ‘don’t worry MSK bhai’. I asked him whether we should call for a replacement, and he again told me not to worry,” he revealed.

Prasad continued, “There was so much pressure before a big match. The next morning I went to his room and he told me not to worry. But I felt things were not right. (As a selector) I couldn’t take Dhoni’s words for granted, so I called up the then chief selector Sandeep Patil and told him the situation. Immediately, Parthiv Patel was sent in as a replacement. By evening, Parthiv had joined the team.”

“I went to his room in the evening and he was just trying to get up from his bed. I asked him if things are alright. As per the Asia Cup rules, we had to submit the team list 24 hours before a game, so I had to check on him. He clearly said that he would play,” he added.

Prasad said he kept following up with Dhoni over his fitness, and he was left bemused over the situation.

“Again at 11pm, when I went to his room, he was not there. Fortunately, I went to the top floor and I saw Dhoni was trying hard to walk towards the swimming pool. He was literally crawling.

“Dhoni said he was trying to walk. I was thinking how could he even think of playing when he could barely walk. Dhoni looked at me and said, ‘don’t worry; you have anyway got Parthiv without telling me. So, you are safe,” he informed.

Much to the surprise of the Indian selector, Dhoni was all in readiness on the day of the match. “Before the team was announced in the afternoon, Dhoni was all dressed up for the game. He called me to his room and asked me why was I worrying so much? Then he said, ‘even if my one leg is not there, I will still play against Pakistan’,” he revealed.

“This is what Dhoni is made of,” the former India cricketer-turned-selector said.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 14:24 IST

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