|Sreesanth and Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a city hotel on Tuesday.
Picture by Gautam Bose
Calcutta: Mahendra Singh Dhoni hadn’t made his Test debut on his last trip here with Team India. That was almost 15 months ago.
Much has happened since: In Ranchi, the world of cricket and Dhoni’s own career. By now, for example, he has featured in 15 Tests.
The canvas has changed in Calcutta as well.
Yet, Dhoni echoed the sentiments of teammates when he told The Telegraph: “I hope the Eden crowd will support us this time… On the last occasion, it was as if we’d been playing an away-match.”
India’s first-choice wicketkeeper was referring to the (November 25, 2005) ODI against South Africa.
Back then, Sourav Ganguly had been dropped from the one-day side and while he’d been picked for the first Test versus Sri Lanka a few days later, the locals were boiling.
If the Dhonis felt they were in an away-match, Graeme Smith, the victorious captain, must have felt he was in Cape Town.
Mahela Jayawardene, though, won’t be made to feel he’s in Colombo. That’s for sure.
For one, Sourav is back. Then, the World Cup is weeks away and Thursday’s ODI (first in a four-match series) is the Calcuttans’ only opportunity in the lead-up to extend support in a befitting manner.
Dhoni, therefore, need not fear a repeat.
That match, incidentally, had come not many days after the end of the last bilateral India-Sri Lanka series where Dhoni’s had been a dhamaka-like impact.
Whatever else is lost with the passage of time, hardly anybody is going to forget his blistering unbeaten 183 in Jaipur (match No.3).
“It remains special, but I live in the present… Jaipur is history… I was batting in a different position (No.3) at that point in time and I assume the Sri Lankans have devised a strategy for me… Not that I’m not ready,” he remarked.
That was a truly stand-out performance in Team India’s whopping 6-1 success.
“We were big winners, yes, but one shouldn’t forget the Sri Lankans are capable of exploiting Indian conditions… Frankly, what has happened in the past won’t have relevance in this series… It’s the now which is important, but one can’t ignore that (Muttiah Muralidharan) Murali and Chaminda Vaas have been rested,” Dhoni asserted on Tuesday evening.
He added: “This series is important for us and Sri Lanka as the winners will have the momentum going into the World Cup… So, it’s going to count for much.”
The psychological factor is also there as India and Sri Lanka are in the same group — B.
On a matter concerning largely him, asked whether Dinesh Karthik’s presence in the squad was keeping him more on his toes, Dhoni replied grinning: “We’re friends and we discuss problems… I’m not worrying… Given that both of us are in the 15, it’s the specialist batsmen who need to worry!”
Do we need to ask Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina that'