Editor's note: If 2016 is the year of cricketer biopics, then MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is the one that promises to be the biggest of them all. And we mean that quite literally. The Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer will open on no fewer than 4,500 screens in India, a bigger number than even Sultan and Kabali, which had 4,000 screens each. The most exciting aspect of the film, however, is that it promises to showcase the lesser known side of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's Captain Cool. In this five-part series, we look at some of the quirkier chapters from Dhoni's life.
Read 'chapter one' here.
When Sakshi Singh Rawat, an intern at Taj Bengal, was introduced to Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2008 by Yudhajit Dutta (the latter’s manager and confidante), it was a sort of reunion for them both. Dhoni’s young neighbour in Ranchi — seven years his junior — had grown up to be a bright and beautiful hotel management graduate.
Mahi’s and Sakshi’s fathers used to work for Mecon, a public sector company in Ranchi and their families would meet often. The two studied in DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir, Shyamali, and were friends.
Mahi then passed out of school and pursued a cricket career, playing first for Coal India Limited and then moving on to Kharagpur to represent South Eastern Railway. The Rawat family, in the interim, moved to their native Dehradun after Sakshi’s father retired. The two friends therefore drifted apart.
Sakshi completed her graduation from the Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad, in 2008 and was posted at Taj Bengal as an intern, where she met her childhood friend after a gap of perhaps 10 years. By then Mahi had cemented his place in the Indian squad and was one of India’s most eligible bachelors.
Mahi is said to have texted messages to her. Sakshi, however, under the belief that one of her friends was playing a prank on her, didn’t respond. It was only when Yudhajit Dutta confirmed that the messages were indeed from Mahi did she respond to them.
They became friends again, dated each other for a couple of years and were married in July 2010.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had worked hard on his wicket-keeping and batting skills from the time he had started representing Coal India and then South Eastern Railway. A couple of years into the new millennium, he had done enough to be noticed by the selectors who were looking to induct fresh talent into the India A squad.
It was around this time — when he was winning matches on his own - that he reportedly also won the heart of a pretty girl from Ranchi named Priyanka Jha. The two were said to be inseparable. But Mahi had been selected to tour Zimbabwe and Kenya, with the India A team, and had to bid goodbye, with the promise that they would meet again soon.
Performing well on the tour and then doing exceptionally well against Pakistan A, he was drafted into the senior Indian squad to play Bangladesh in 2004.
Back from the long trips abroad, he had returned eagerly to Ranchi to spend time with Priyanka, only to be told that she had died in a car accident. He was heartbroken and inconsolable. Depressed for almost a year after that, he had worked himself out of his misery by concentrating on improving his game.
Despite the passage of time and having crossed so many milestones in his career, it is said that Dhoni has never really forgotten Priyanka Jha.
In 2007, when Dhoni was asked about Bollywood actress, Deepika Padukone, he is said to have told a bunch of reporters that he was seriously thinking of asking her to be his ‘girl-friend’ (they had been linked together in several reports). All that changed when he met Sakshi at Taj Bengal in 2008!
Tomorrow, another 'chapter' from Dhoni's life
Austin Coutinho — writer, cartoonist and author — has coached many state level cricketers and footballers. He introduced mental toughness training to cricket and football more than a decade ago.