Mahendra Singh Dhoni may have been holidaying in New York but the Indian skipper was also keeping tabs on the progress of his ailing childhood friend Santosh Lal and even ensured he was flown from Ranchi to Delhi for advanced care.
However,Lal,32,did not make it. He succumbed to pancreatitis Wednesday even before doctors at a private hospital in the capital could start treatment.
Friends close to the late Jharkhand all-rounder said no one had the heart to call Dhoni and inform him about Lals death. It was only much later that the Indian captain was informed through a text message.
The two,after all,went back a long way.
Not only did they start their cricketing journeys together,Lal is also known to have had a significant influence on Dhoni during his early days. They traveled together frequently across the state for local tournaments,forming a solid bond. Lal also remained a frequent visitor to Dhonis home even after his superstar friend had become Indias most sought-after sportsman.
He and Dhoni were the best of friends since childhood. They would play tennis ball games endlessly. They both worked for Railways. Santosh was fearless as a batsmen, said Nishant Dayal,another longtime friend of Lal.
Over the years,Dhoni may have patented the helicopter shot but growing up,there was someone who was better at it. Lal,Dayal said,might even have been the one who helped the Indian captain master the trademark shot.
Dhoni always admired his batting style. And Santosh taught him to play the helicopter shot, adds Dayal.
Dhoni had flown to the US from the Caribbean after helping India win the tri-series in Port-of-Spain. He found out about Lals deteriorating condition on July 13 and immediately arranged for his friend to be shifted to Delhi by air ambulance.
Although the ambulance took off the following morning,it didnt reach the capital until July 16 as thunderstorms diverted it to Varanasi. The delay worsened Lals condition and doctors had said it was too late to save him.