Yuvraj Singh, in Ranchi, on Friday. (PTI)
Ranchi: Nothing could be as exhilarating and fascinating as going back to one’s childhood days. Ask Mahendra Singh Dhoni and he will testify.
The Team India captain may have played most of his cricket in Jamshedpur, but there’s nothing that can beat his memories of growing up in the hustle and bustle of this far-from-glamourous town.
As he walks out for the toss at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA)’s International Stadium on Saturday, in what is going to be its international debut, he’s sure to be flooded with some of his childhood dreams that have turned real in the years gone by.
Dhoni couldn’t hide his feelings during the inauguration of the stadium in the evening and termed it as the beginning of a “new innings”.
Rarely has any match been more about one person and it’s no wonder then that England are almost treating this as a battle against Dhoni.
The approximately 3 crore-population in the state were given a scare when their favourite son was hit on the right thumb while batting at nets on Friday morning.
He was batting in the nets earmarked for pacers when the uneven bounce on the practice wicket resulted in a delivery from bowling coach Joe Dawes rising sharply and hitting him.
After spending a few minutes trying to gauge the nature and extent of the injury, he came out and sat with an ice pack on his hand. He didn’t take any further risk and was back in the dressing room after a while.
To the relief of his teammates and fans, a member of the team management later confirmed that there was nothing to worry. It transpired that he didn’t even need an X-ray.
The hype and fanaticism surrounding his home debut, however, hasn’t managed to distract the person, described as Ranchi’s “very own” in these parts. “He’s the same… He has not changed a bit. Obviously, he’s excited to play his first match at home,” said Ravindra Jadeja.
Eoin Morgan also didn’t wish to read much into it. “I think Dhoni is always going to be under pressure.
“He is the captain of India. He has 1.2 billion people on his shoulders. He is the captain of a massive nation.
“The pressure is always going to be there. Being back in his hometown might even give him some pride to play for,” explained the England batsman.
If Dhoni and Jadeja’s superb showing resulted in India squaring the series in Kochi, a win here is sure to give them a headstart ahead of the remaining two one-dayers.
If England were harbouring hopes of winning their first one-day series in India since 1984-85 after the Rajkot victory, they were brought crashing down to earth with a clinical performance that found Alastair Cook’s men clueless.
In the pressure cooker atmosphere of Kochi, a situation visiting teams dread to face, Dhoni’s men showed they were the boss when it came to the shorter version.
The way Dhoni and Jadeja clobbered 95 runs off the last eight overs of the innings must have been enough to inject a sense of optimism and confidence in their ranks.
Suddenly the planning and the execution seemed to be all in place. Tired of explaining India’s inept performances over the past few weeks, Dhoni finally found something positive to reflect on.
England’s old follies against spin also returned in the last game after Bhuvaneshwar Kumar had wiped off the top-order. Batting coach Graham Gooch could do well with a poster on the dressing room wall: ‘Must not hit across the line.’
The memories of their last limited-overs trip to India, where they were wiped off 0-5, must have crossed Cook’s mind as he went on a post mortem of the defeat over the last couple of days.
Despite the fabulous facilities at the stadium, the players are keeping their fingers crossed on the nature of the wicket.
If the uneven bounce on the practice pitches was a matter of concern, Jadeja hoped it would different on the wicket prepared for the ODI.
“The practice pitches seemed a bit uneven… Hope the match wicket will be fine. “It has been rolled enough. Hope we will do well in whatever the nature of the wicket,” he said.
The whole of Jharkhand “has been waiting for this day”, as JSCA president Amitabh Choudhury put it, and one only hopes England doesn’t gatecrash in what is expected to be Dhoni’s party.
India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed.
England (likely): Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, James Tredwell, Jade Dernbach/Stuart Meaker, Steven Finn
Umpires: Steve Davis & S. Ravi. TV: Vineet Kulkarni.
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft.
Match starts: 12 noon.