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 opened 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 promised 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.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni adores Australia’s ‘keeper-batsman, Adam Gilchrist. Ten years his senior, ‘Gilly’ had, by the end of his career, scored more than 15,000 international runs and has picked 888 victims behind the stumps.
When informed that Dhoni was a big fan of his and that he would ‘pay to watch his idol play’, Gilchrist replied, “I can say that I’ll pay to watch MS Dhoni bat. MS isn’t the next Gilchrist. He’s the first MS Dhoni!”
Sachin Tendulkar was another legend whom Dhoni idolised as a youngster. The ‘Master’, who recommended Dhoni’s name for the India captaincy, has gone on record saying that during his long playing career, he felt that Dhoni was the best Indian captain.
When Dhoni was playing for South Eastern Railway and was posted as a TTE at Kharagpur Station, all the luggage that he carried was a bag, with clothes and his cricket kit in it. It is said that after his duty at the railway station, he would grab forty winks on a platform bench and then rush to the stadium nearby for practice.
Even after playing for Bihar in the Ranji Trophy championships, he would often practice alone at the Kharagpur stadium. After his customary 10-kilometre run, he would toss a ball against the wall and catch it, with his ‘keeping gloves on, doing hundreds of repetitions. He would also play shots against a wall. Sometimes, he would even play with two bats together — one on top of the other — to improve his bat speed.
As his stock grew in the cricketing world, he was forced to be away from work for long periods. And even when he was at Kharagpur, he concentrated more on his practice sessions rather than his job as a TTE. The Railways therefore had to issue him a ‘show cause notice’ for dereliction of duty. It was under these circumstances that he resigned from the Railways in 2003.
L’il Master Sunil Gavaskar once said that Dhoni was a cricketer who knew that victory and defeat were both ‘impostors’. ‘Captain Cool’ hardly ever reacted to either brickbat or bouquet.
It wasn’t always that way, though. When young, Dhoni was said to be a very bad loser. He played cricket, football, badminton and sometimes, snooker. If he lost in any of these games, he would be mad at himself and at his opponents.
One of his Railway teammates reminisces, “We were warming up for a match and as usual playing a game of football. On one occasion during the game, I did a body-feint and dribbled past Dhoni, which left him fuming. A couple of minutes later, when he received the ball, he ran towards me and banged the ball into my midriff, just to show me who the ‘boss’ is!”
Most of Dhoni’s friends in Ranchi were fun-loving. They would regularly meet at their ‘adda’ to gossip, have a smoke and sometimes down a few drinks. Dhoni, a committed teetotaler, was once rebuked by his mates for not sharing a drink with them. When one of them challenged him to have a swig of beer, Dhoni, who was always up for a challenge, said that he would drink the entire bottle at one go.
A couple of swigs, and Dhoni threw up. Much to his discomfiture, he had lost!
Unmindful of the stump-mike, Dhoni would give instructions to his fielders in very humorous language and tone. Once, when Sreesanth was too deep for his liking at mid-wicket, he said, “Sree, wahan pe girlfriend nahin hain. Aage aaja!” On another occasion to a bowler who was bowling the wrong line on a turning track, with Pujara stationed at forward short-leg for a catch, he said, “Ball ghoomega. Pujara ko taali bajane ke liye nahin rakha hai!”
This concludes our series on offbeat 'chapters' from MS Dhoni's untold story!
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.