A couple of days after the cricketing world was abuzz with the news of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s removal as the skipper of IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiants, the just-appointed Jharkhand skipper, in his typical unfazed avatar, regaled his teammates with stories from the past in a rare train journey from Ranchi to Howrah station to take part in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In the last couple of seasons, Dhoni while playing for Jharkhand, never captained the side but has taken up the mantle this time around. It was learnt that the state association pushed the envelope to make him skipper again.
“We always fly when we come to Kolkata for the Ranji Trophy. This time, he wanted to travel by train since it has been long he last boarded a train,” team manager P.N. Singh told reporters at a city hotel on Wednesday.
Heeding Dhoni’s request, the team boarded an AC two-tier compartment of the Hatia-Howrah 18616 Kriya Yoga Express from Ranchi at 9.40 p.m. on Tuesday. For Dhoni, a former South Eastern Railway employee, it was yesterday once more as he had last travelled in a train 13 years back.
“We all got on the train from Ranchi and he insisted since the boys are together we should do this,” Singh said.
He also informed that Dhoni was awake till 2 a.m., talking about his initial days in the game and chronicling many a tale which he encountered during his famed career.
“He was talking to the players about how to wriggle out of a difficult situation in a match,” Singh said.
Since the last time Dhoni took a train, the Ranchi wicketkeeper-batsman captained India to two World Cup titles — 50-over in 2011 and World T20 in 2007 — bagged a Champions Trophy, shepherded the side to No. 1 ranking in Tests and became one of the best finishers, the game has ever seen.
The berth Dhoni was sitting in had Rajiv Kumar Raja (coach), Monu Kumar Singh, and P.N. Singh by his side as the 35-year old Mahi bhaiya (as he is famously called by his teammates) sipped tea and kept on chatting till late in the night.
“There were so many selfie seekers and some Dhoni recognised by name as he has worked with them when he was employed as ticket collector (in West Bengal’s Kharagpur junction). There was a group D staffer, whom Dhoni called by his name and made him sit beside him.
“We had special security arrangements but there were other people also in the train and Dhoni obliged everyone. Passengers were shocked seeing him travel in a train.”
Dhoni wanted to get down at Muri junction for tea, Singh said sending journalists into peals of laughter.
“Monu is the one who takes the liberty to go into light banters with Mahi. He said ‘go get down and get tea’. Then we all said it will be mayhem.”
Dhoni and co reached Howrah at 6.50 a.m. on Wednesday.
“He will be playing playstation in the evening with the boys. He loves playing FIFA and has that in his plan for the day,” he added.
Jharkhand are placed in Group D in the Vijay Hazare Trophy along with Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Saurashtra and Services.
Jharkhand will play their first game against Karnataka in Kolkata on February 25.