Dhoni – The Ranchi Lad

I was a bit baffled with folks criticizing and mocking Dhoni for coming ahead of Raina in today’s match at Ranchi with 12 runs left to win.

Ranchi is not Mumbai, or Kolkatta or Delhi – it is not even the largest city in its own state Jharkhand. It is a small town – and is steadily experiencing growth since the last decade when Jharkhand became a separate state and Ranchi the capital.

MSD’s story is what dreams are made of. His rise from rags to riches, the hardships undertaken, the life led. His story is an inspiration to every child in his town, every father wants his son to be a MSD and his success proves to them that theirs is not wishful thinking anymore.

Ranchi today hosted its first international match in what is a state-of-the-art stadium. It is an occasion for the local junta and MSD to be proud about. To prove their love and loyalty to the kid they saw grow up and take charge of their favourite team in their favourite sport; they turned up in huge numbers to support the team and him.

They wanted to see their team win and they wanted to see their local hero bat.

They, like you and me, also love to watch Kohli, Yuvi, Rahane, Raina bat, but they would want to watch their local boy bat more. And there is nothing wrong in wanting that bit!

When I watched cricket in college I wanted to see my best friend bat more than the rest of the team despite knowing they were as good or better than him. When Ajit Agarkar made his debut – I wanted to see him bowl and bat at Wankhede because he was from my building and it was of great pride to us that our local boy had made it to the big stage. Whenever I went to Wankhede I wanted to see Sachin bat a lot more than the rest – because he was Mumbai’s favourite son – Aamcha Marathi Mulga.

In the next generation even though Kohli and Pujara will be my favourites, when I go to Wankhede I will root for the local boys Rohit and Rahane whenever they play there.

There is a certain charm in supporting your local boys – of seeing them do well at the big stage against the big guys. There is a great sense of belonging and a personal connection that one feels seeing folks from your locality, or city or state make it big.

You cannot apply logic and rationale to this love. To understand it you need to be at the ground and wait for the roar when the local hero walks in. The roar at Wankhede whenever Sachin walked in was deafening – you were travelling in the bus or train and passing by Wankhede and you could guess who has walked in when you heard that sound.

Whenever I recollect those moments and I’m lucky that I have witnessed quite a lot of these moment, it gives me goose bumps.

Of the umpteen folks that come to the ground, I always land up watching the dads and moms who come along with their little kids. Seeing their local hero bat gives them the hopes of the possibilities that exist for their kids – that there is nothing wrong in dreaming that one day it might be their kid walking out to this ovation in his home ground,

And in all this selfishness if you choose to call it so – there is not a single person out there who wishes to see their home boy bat at the cost of a win for their side. There is none!

Today there was a crowd of 40000 that came out in full support – first to cheer their team to a win and then to cheer their boy. The first is always a special – like your first love, you first crush, your first match, your first car, your first home. It is always special and today was Ranchi’s first ever – an international match and the chance to  see their boy bat in flesh and blood. I still recollect every moment of my first match when I caught my cricket heroes in flesh and blood! SO IT WAS BLOODY DAMN SPECIAL FOR RANCHI AND MSD!

MSD is not the one to hog limelight. He did not put the team’s cause at stake, he did not put the chase in any kind of trouble, he did not tamper with the batting order despite top order woes in earlier matches. He did not do anything that would hamper an Indian win. And with only 12 runs left, and India comfortably home – he came out to hit the winning runs not to steal the show but to say a small thank you for all the love showered on him by his hometown folks.

So if you don’t understand why Dhoni came out to hit the winning runs today – you don’t understand this sport, you don’t understand the fans, you don’t understand pride, you don’t understand hope and you definitely don’t understand love!