MS Dhoni obliges autograph seekers outside Mecon Stadium in Ranchi on Wednesday. (Prashant Mitra)
On the 22 yards, he is brutal with his bat. But, Ranchi lad M.S. Dhoni could never resist football — his first love — right from his school days when he ventured into sports as a goalie and till he become the most celebrated wicket-keeper captain of Team India.
A day before the big clash between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the JSCA International Cricket Complex in Dhurwa, the CSK skipper was carefree personified as he hooted, clapped and cheered teams at the BC Roy Junior National Football Tournament at Mecon Stadium on Wednesday.
Seated in one corner of the pavilion, he seemed just another soccer fan till he darted for the exit apprehensive of being mobbed by the media.
“A match between UP and Haryana was underway around 12.30pm, when Mahi suddenly ventured into the stadium alone and unannounced, sporting his CSK jersey. He sat next to us and requested no attention. But, the media got wind and a crowd started gathering outside. Mahi had to leave in a haste,” said stadium official Pradeep Kumar.
On September 14, Mahi had paid a similar, but scheduled, visit to Birsa Munda Football Stadium in Morabadi during a state-level tournament.
“Football se Dhoni ko door rakhna mushkil hai. (It is difficult to keep Dhoni away from a game of football),” said another official at the stadium.
People who know Captain Cool closely say he is a man of surprises. Take for instance, his new Mohawk avatar, which left even his teammates “speechless”.
“Before Sunday’s match, he (Dhoni) casually walked into the dressing room with that hairdo and we were all speechless for a few minutes,” said Albie Morkel, a South African cricketer and CSK all-rounder. “But it is cool. We all know his hidden love for football. And, soccer legends across the globe have had similar hairstyles,” Morkel added.
The Sunrisers touched down in Ranchi in the afternoon, while Team Dhoni sweated it out at the nets for two hours.
Despite a thrilling match on the cards, a full house at Dhurwa remains a concern. On Wednesday, 7,000 tickets were sold from the counters, while 9,000-10,000 passes were distributed. “It is a night game so another 5,000 tickets are expected to be sold. We are hoping for a footfall of 30,000,” said JSCA spokesperson Manoj Kumar.