DEEPAK SHARMA remembers the exact date when somebody in his college at Jagadhri, Haryana, told him that he looks like Indian captain M S Dhoni. It was in 2003 that Sharma had dropped out — he was in BCom second year — due to financial reasons and it was the same time when Dhoni had made it to the Indian team. Sharma, who worked as a supervisor, started following Dhoni and met his idol for the first time in 2006 during the ICC Champions Trophy. On Sunday, too, Sharma was there along with other fans like Sudhir Chaudhary and Babu Lal to see India clash with Australia.
“It was in September 2003 that I had to quit my studies as my family could not afford it any further. Friends in college would often tell me that I looked like Dhoni and I would also then imitate Dhoni in terms of my hairdo and looks. I met him for the first time in 2006 and later I also travelled with Chennai Super Kings team during IPL I on Dhoni’s invite. Later, I took part in a TV show and reached the second round in the entertainment section,” said 32-year-old Sharma, who came to watch Dhoni play against Australia on Sunday.
Sharma now works as a sales executive with Pepsi at Jagadhari. The last decade has seen him travell all over India to watch his idol play. Sharma also remembers that sometimes he would also be mistaken for Dhoni at airports and team hotels. Sharma has named his small shop in Jagadhri as MSD Canteen.
“On several occasions, hotel officials and security officials mistook me for Dhoni. Before the India-Pakistan semi-final in ODI World Cup in 2011 in Mohali, I went to the team hotel and some of the security officials mistook me for Dhoni and got their pictures clicked with me. South African bowler Mkhaya Ntini once mistook me for Dhoni in the flight and called me Mahi and sat beside me. I have framed all his autographs and bats given by him at my shop and home. When he became father of a girl, my three daughters were also very happy,” said Sharma, whose father runs a tea-stall.
For another ardent fan, businessman Nitin Jain of Ambala, it has been sketches of Sachin Tendulkar which gave him an opportunity to meet Sachin several times. Seeing Virat bow down to Sachin during the Indian team’s win against Pakistan, 30-year-old Jain has also brought a sketch depicting Sachin’s life as a kid to a legend, and plans to give Virat Kohli the sketch.
“I made my first sketch of Sachin sir when he announced retirement from ODIs. Later, I met him at Mussoorie and I gifted him his and Anjali mam’s sketch on their anniversary which they displayed at their Mussoorie home. This new sketch is my tribute to Sachin sir and also an inspiration to Virat,” said Jain, who is also called Nitin Sachinist by his friends.