His jersey neatly tucked in, hands crossed and resting on the hips, former India captain MS Dhoni, leading Jharkhand in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, stood still as a plane flew over his head. It wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last. The busy Wednesday morning saw one aircraft cross the Palam ground almost every over but it didn’t bother Dhoni much. He went about marshalling his troops in the middle and seemed completely focussed on the job at hand. If the giant passenger aircrafts didn’t force him to look upwards even once, it seemed a herculean task for three enthusiasts, screaming their lungs out from the ground’s boundary wall, to make Dhoni turn sideways and take note.
Hanging by the iron fence were three brothers from Chennai. With two make-shift pla-cards, made with thin chart papers, they kept screaming “Dhoni, Dhoni” when Jharkhand were bowling in the morning. “We are here to meet Dhoni,” says Aakash, one of the brothers. “All three have travelled for more than 2,500 km and have been in Delhi since the last four days just to meet Dhoni bhaiya. He (pointing at one of his brothers) even took leave from his job just to meet our idol, our hero,” he adds.
Right from the start of the Indian Premier League, Dhoni, who led the Chennai Super Kings in all editions before the team was suspended, has remained a popular figure in the southern part of the country. “We are from Cheenai,” reads one of their pla-card and it’s kept close to other one which says, “Want to meet u MS Dhoni.”
The neatly trimmed trees under which they stand offer them very little shade but plenty of hope. After unsuccessful attempts to meet their hero in the last one year, the trio is determined to make things happen this time around and certainly went the distance to do the same.
Travelling on a tight budget, and on what would have been their last afternoon in the capital, Akash opted for the extreme route when the regular ones left him and his brothers disheartened. Akash and his brothers Chandru and Praveen had come for the practice session on the eve of the match and left a letter for Dhoni with the team bus’s driver. Not very sure of it reaching the right place, Akash took the matter in his own hands.
Right after Dhoni hit the winning six and secured a semis berth for his side, Akash jumped the boundary wall and ran like there was no tomorrow. He wasn’t the first intruder in the match, (two others interrupted play. First was when Dhoni walked out to bat, second when he was batting) but his motive, like the first two, was not just the skipper’s signature on the piece of paper. He reached the center, touched Dhoni’s feet before handing over a letter in a hand-written envelope. “’I have come from 3,000 kms away’, I told Dhoni bhaiya and touched his feet” he reveals. “Dhoni bhaiya said ‘3,000 kms. Really.’ I just took his blessings and not the autograph as the policemen grabbed me. My motive was served as I desperately wanted to share our feelings with Dhoni bhaiya,” says Akash after he was released by the policemen.
He received a couple of meaty blows from the security but doesn’t mind the pain. The brothers stand near the only gate leading to the ground and ask about Dhoni’s whereabouts. After dramatically explaining the sequence of events after Dhoni’s six, Akash had a smile of relief when he came to know that his hero is still inside. “Is it possible to meet him, did he read my letter, I gave him you saw?”. His questions wouldn’t stop and hope was still not lost. As the Chennai brothers, running out of cash, get ready to head back home Thursday night, they continue to hope of meeting “Dhoni bhaiya” when he returns to “Chennai with the Super Kings”.
“Dhoni bhaiya will be back to Chennai (Super Kings) next year. We will continue to try and meet him.”
As Annie Ernaux wins Nobel Prize 2022 in Literature, a look at the past winners of the prestigious global award