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DHONI’S MAGIC FLOORS BRABOURNE

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
By Neil Joshi

Mumbai puts on a reception next to only Sachin Tendulkar farewell Test three years ago; Dhoni honours it with a swashbuckling 50

MUMBAI: Never before did any former Indian skipper playing before a capacity crowd hear their name being chanted like a gospel. But Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was party to such chants all throughout the match at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai which hosted the warm-up match between England versus India A here yesterday.

The last time an Indian player received such a reception was Sachin Tendulkar during his farewell series against the West Indies which concluded at the Wankhede Stadium in 2013. Yesterday, the stadium was thronged by an approximate 20,000 [capacity 25,000] crowd who waited for hours to get a glimpse of India’s most successful skipper till date. The Cricket Club of India which had kept the East Stand open for spectators had to open the gates to the North Stand and West Stand to account the thousands chanting of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni…’ outside the stadium within an hour of the commencement of the match.

 It was a perfect setting to catch a glimpse of a free-spirited Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the first time after relinquishing his captaincy last week. Dhoni leading the bunch out of which a few will figure in the forthcoming one-day international and T20 series brought huge crowds primarily because of his announcement of vacating the captain’s seat.

Right from the toss, Dhoni was crowned Mumbai’s favourite for the evening. Despite wickets falling during India A’s batting, there was a resounding cheer among the crowd in anticipation that with every fall of wicket they would get to welcome their former skipper. While crowd cheered Shikhar Dhawan’s half century and out of favour Ambati Rayudu’s ton, the biggest cheer was on the completion of Rayudu’s century with non-striker Yuvraj Singh suggesting him to retire thus allowing the skipper to play to the crowd.

In came the 35-year-old Jharkhand born who led India in 199 one-day international to a thunderous standing ovation. Dhoni immediately switched in to his vintage gear, thumping off the back-foot in his trademark style to get on with the scoring. On the other hand, Yuvraj Singh who was selected in to the national side banking on his domestic form did well for himself as he looked in sublime touch and looked determined to get on the minds of the visiting English team. Yuvraj is making a comeback to the Indian team, he had last played for Indian against South Africa in December 2013 and today scored 56 runs [48 balls] after whicha he miscued a short one off Jake Ball to thewaiting Adil Rashid at fine leg.

The fans too had their involvement on the ground, when one miscreant ran on to greet Dhoni only to be warned by the umpires not to run on to the pitch which he adhered,he touched Dhoni’s feet, shook his hands only to nabbed by the security later on. He was later taken to the Marine Drive Police Station. The cops are yet to impose charges on him. “We have taken him in custody, but no inquiry has taken place yet. His age will be considered while we decide the charges to be imposed on him. He was emotional at the moment and so we will consider his case as special,” said a cop on the condition of anonymity.

The deafening chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni…’ continued as the skipper took control of the final 10 overs pulling and hooking the short stuff unleashed by the visiting team. As he took a while to have a look in, he played some innovative strokes – one in the 44th over where he played a flat batted flick towards deep fine leg which was followed by another one on the off-side. He picked his bowlers and spots as he piled on an unbeaten 68 runs off 40 balls effectively treating the crowd to a breezy reception. Dhoni scored 23 runs in the last over with two sixes and two fours.

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