Ranchi: Sachin Tendulkar failed for a change, so did Irfan Pathan. But Team India couldn’t care less. There was Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take care of the Sri Lankans in Jaipur on Monday.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was in the thick of action almost right through the match. He kept wickets as the visitors piled up 298 for four and, after the lunch break, arrived at the crease in the very first over of the Indian innings following Tendulkar’s dismissal.
Dhoni took little time to announce his intention and soon the Sri Lankan bowlers started feeling the heat.
As is rained sixes and fours at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, each muscular hit was greeted by cheers and high-fives at the Dhoni residence here. The select group included some of Dhoni’s close friends who were giving his parents, Pan Singh and Devki Devi, company.
The telephone lines rang non-stop from the moment ‘Mahi’ ' as Dhoni is lovingly called ' reached his second ODI century. The celebrations reached a crescendo as soon as he belted his sixth over-boundary to signal India’s victory.
The proud father thanked God and put Mahi’s matchwinning knock down to destiny. “I’m happy he has been performing consistently. I will pray to God that he continues to do so well over a long period of time.”
His son’s record-shattering innings had obviously delighted him, but Pan Singh was quick to point out that individual performance doesn’t matter much in a team game like cricket.
“India won and that is the main thing. Mahi just played his part well. India’s victory should be highlighted more than any individual performance,” said Pan Singh a trifle too humbly.
Dhoni’s friends and some neighbours begged to differ, having no qualms in announcing that he had single-handedly steered India to a 3-0 lead over
The father made another important observation. “Initially he (Dhoni) used to bat at number six or seven where he couldn’t show his normal prowess. Now, he gets a chance to bat at three in some games and that has helped him blossom,” said Pan Singh.
Dhoni’s childhood friends felt Monday’s knock was even better than his 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam.
The kids in the muhalla were celebrating Diwali a day in advance. “We watched Dhonibhaiya all afternoon. Now it’s time to celebrate,” one of them said as a big group got ready to burst crackers.
Ccongratulations poured in from far and wide.
“I have been maintaining for a long time that Dhoni is the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the country, he has proved his worth once again,” said Amitabh Choudhary, the president of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association. “A player who has kept wickets for 50 overs and then returns to the field to play such a blistering innings is simply brilliant.”
Choudhary added that the national selectors haven’t yet done full justice to Dhoni. “It’s high time Dhoni is picked for the Test side,” Choufhary signed off.
The whole of Jharkhand must be echoing Choudhary’s thought.