The Telegraph
Saturday , January 19 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s a ‘special’ day for Dhoni, Ranchi
- ‘The start of a new innings for cricket in Jharkhand’

JSCA president Amitabh Choudhary hands over a memento to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, during the inauguration of the JSCA Stadium, on Friday

Ranchi: Governor Syed Ahmed fumbled the first time, turning Mahendra Singh Dhoni into “Mahendra Singh Soni,” but he did make amends by reciting a couplet in honour of the India captain.

Acting chief minister Arjun Munda, however, didn’t err one bit. “Is shaher ka laadla Mahendra Singh Dhoni...”

Jharkhand ka laadla is more like it.

One has to be around here to actually appreciate what Dhoni means to Ranchi and to the state. Also, to marvel at the manner in which he conducts himself.

Dhoni’s very much the face of Jharkhand, even if he’s not its official brand ambassador and not promoting it like Shah Rukh Khan is pitching for Bengal.

To no one’s surprise, Dhoni got the maximum applause during the inauguration of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association International Stadium on Friday evening.

With such a world-class facility just a couple of kms from the city centre, Dhoni will no longer have to give elaborate explanations (internationally) as to where Ranchi is and what the state is best known for.

Dhoni complimented the Association president Amitabh Choudhary (who was given more than a pat on the back by Ahmed and Munda too) and called it a “special day,” even though the stadium’s debut match featuring India is on Saturday.

“It’s going to be the start of a new innings for cricket in Jharkhand... The stadium exudes warmth... I won’t have to give explanations any more,” Dhoni said when he was invited to speak by compere Kabir Bedi.

For good measure, Dhoni added: “This is a proud moment... Now, it’s up to the people to make it a very special game for all of us...”

But before his speech, Dhoni joined the drummers on stage despite his right thumb still having a slight swelling, the result of being hit at nets by bowling coach Joe Dawes.

The classy Bedi, incidentally, introduced Dhoni as a “great captain.”

Later, Board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan (who also praised Choudhary) made it a point to say that he was “honoured” to be in the hometown of the India captain and the captain of his “favourite team” in the IPL.

The reference was to the Chennai Super Kings.

Srinivasan, who’d arrived on his private jet, left for New Delhi after the inauguration. He may return at some point on Saturday.

“Mr Srinivasan is keen to watch Dhoni play at home, so let’s see,” Choudhary informed.

Dhoni’s composure is legendary, but it’s regularly put to test. On Thursday night, for example, he could barely eat at Choudhary’s Doranda residence, such was the craze to be photographed with him.

It was a select gathering, yet one saw adults behaving like children.

Call it the Dhoni effect.

In between, however, Dhoni remembered to tell The Telegraph that he used to play “tennis ball cricket” in the locality.

“That was in my teens... I had friends in the Doranda area and we’d play tennis ball cricket quite often... Coming here has brought back memories,” Dhoni said nostalgically.

Well, all of Ranchi is hoping they get to see the Dhoni of old on a very special day.

Meanwhile, the England & Wales Cricket Board chairman, Giles Clarke, found the stadium “fabulous” and the inauguration “very interesting.”

Clarke, who was present with his wife, made no effort to rub off the red tilak.