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Find Out How A Broken Car Almost Ruined Dhoni’s Career Before It Even Started

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By Ameya Ranade:

India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni smiles during a news conference in Mumbai, India, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - RTX21473
Image source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Back in January 2001, a full strength Australian Team, riding on the record success of 15 consecutive Test wins, toured India raring to go for the ‘Final Frontier’. Neither Indian players nor the selectors were willing to leave any stone unturned in shaping up for ‘The Series’ and the Duleep Trophy Tournament. Cricketing stars like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Srinath, Prasad had all turned up for crucial preparations. Their only hope – Australians had never won a series in India since 1969!

Far from this tumultuous environment, Chhotu Bhaiyya, a sports goods shop owner in a small and lazy town where nothing exciting ever happens, received a phone call from a friend in Kolkata congratulating him for his friend’s selection in the East Zone team for the ongoing Duleep Trophy Tournament.

The twist in the story, of course, was that nobody, not even the player himself, knew about this miraculous selection. Some said that it was bureaucratic negligence of state Cricket Association while some blamed it on conspiracy – one can’t really be sure. Anyhow, the promising 20-year-old cricketer had no time to speculate or celebrate for he was left with just 20 hours to join the East Zone cricket team in Kolkata from where he would then board a flight to Agartala with the rest of the team and stand against the South Zone.

The last train going to Kolkata had already left town. Chhotu Bhaiyya promptly hired a car for an overnight journey to get his friend to his destiny. But fate had other plans or maybe it’s the duty of cars rented from sleepy towns to break down in the middle of the road. The journey had to be abandoned that night.

Deep Dasgupta replaced our 20-year-old protagonist and played for the East Zone at Agartala that time. And just a few months later he even went on to make his Test and ODI debut. But what about Chhotu Bhaiyaa’s friend? Well, that ‘unlucky’ young man is now ironically hailed as a ‘luckiest’ captain of Indian by some sections of the media and people in general.

Considering the crisis of wicketkeepers in the Indian team back in the days, it would have been relatively easy for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make his debut for the national team if he could have made it to Agartala that time.

Instead, he joined the team as the 12th man in Pune against team West Zone led by Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin and Kambli scored massive centuries that time to crush East Zone by an innings and a mountain of runs. Dhoni was a huge fan of Tendulkar and had a life-size poster of him besides his bed. He dreamt of one day playing with or against Sachin. Dhoni recalls an incidence from that match wherein he handed Sachin a bottle during the drinks break. This was the only interaction he could manage with his hero. Of course, then neither of them knew that exactly ten years in the future Dhoni will captain Sachin along with the rest of Team India.

Deep Dasgupta remained the first choice keeper batsman for East Zone the next couple of years denying Dhoni further opportunity (he already had bleak chances to make it big playing with Bihar Cricket Association). It was only when Pranab Roy, former national selector, put his own reputation, sleep and relations with other selectors at stake to push Dhoni into the East Zone team in the 2003-2004 season that things seemed to move forward.

If not flamboyant, then with steady performances Dhoni went on cementing the faith showed in him and earned himself a spot in India-A Team bound to Nairobi for the 50 over Triangular Series featuring Kenya and Pakistan-A sides. Dhoni scored two quick-fire centuries and a 50, all against Pakistan-A, including a ton in the Finals of the tournament to help the Indian team win the tournament. Being the top scorer, Dhoni was awarded the Man of the Series. The Triangular series was televised, and Chhotu Bhaiyya even recorded Mahi’s innings on his old VCR so as to watch it with his friend when he returned.

It was only after establishing himself as a hard hitting batsman and a useful wicket-keeper in the domestic circuit that he finally made his ODI debut late 2004. Considered to be the fastest runner between the wickets, he was run out on the first ball he faced in international cricket. Easily amongst the smartest wicketkeepers in the world, he was not able to grab even a single catch in his first match. An explosive batsman, he was able to gather only 19 runs in 3 matches from that series. But within a year he took the cricketing world by storm, scoring a blistering 148 off 124 balls against Pakistan and then breaking the World Record of Gilchrist’s 172 runs as highest ODI score by a Wicket Keeper when he scored 183 against Sri Lanka. From there he catapulted himself in the international arena grabbing Test berth, T20 Captainship, Inaugural T20 World Cup, ODI Captainship, Test Captainship, ODI World Cup, one after the other.

He surely had his limitations with batting outside the subcontinent, especially in Tests. The lack of technique to bat in conditions where the ball seams, swings, bounces and does all kinds of un-Indian things lead the bowlers to capitalize it against him. As a captain, he has faced some embarrassing losses in International Test series where the conditions were not suitable to Indian bowlers and was often criticized for his defensive captainship. But let us judge his character by his ability to rise above the weaknesses and failures in this fiercely competitive sport. Today he stands as one of the best Wicket-Keeper batsman India has ever produced winning the most number of ICC trophies as an Indian captain.

I feel surprised when people attribute these achievements to his ‘luck’. Where does one buy that stuff? Or does someone gift it to you? Or does one manufacture it on their own with the hard work that remains visible to very few? This wonderful cricketer has made his way into the Indian side against all obstacles, defying all odds and emerged as someone who will be admired and adored for generations. This Midas has ‘smithed’ his way, toiled with heavy hammers and hot bellows, to yield the gold that sparkles so bright that what commoners get to see is only the ‘Touch’!

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  1. balayogi venkataraman

    Youthkiawaaz is good only when it writes on non social issues;when it writes without its left oriented politicization of everything; when it stop sermonizing on socialistic ideology based templates of blaming the others; when it doe snot report on nauseatingly divisive agendas and victim hood peddling but just factual information to dispel wrong notions though rare as this article is ,it is good . That’s youthkiawaaz is readable only when it comes out of the ideological cages of left .

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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