Jammu and Kashmir lost against Jharkhand on the field, but off it the cricketers from the northern valley emerged gainers when former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to spend some time with them answering their cricketing queries.
A couple of years back, the J&K cricketers had a similar chance when Sachin Tendulkar dropped in at the Wankhede Stadium dressing room after they upset Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy game
It was a nightmare of a tournament for J&K as they lost all but one match finishing last in their group. After being beaten by Jharkhand in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match, it was J&K skipper and India international Parvez Rasool who requested Dhoni to have a chat with the boys.
On Rasool’s request, the World Cup-winning skipper headed straight to the J&K dressing room and patiently listened to their queries spending about 15 minutes.
“Mahi bhai has always been helpful on cricketing matters. That’s his nature. It was a great opportunity to learn a thing or two from Mahi bhai. He is a great guy. I played alongside him for India,” Rasool said.
“I told him (Dhoni) few of our youngsters want to meet him for five minutes and within no time he obliged us and said ‘I will go from here’,” Rasool said.
Some of them saw Dhoni for the first time, while their reserve wicketkeeper Raman Thaploo was a great fan of the former Indian camp as it was a lifetime opportunity for them.
“It was a great opportunity for our youngsters who have seen Dhoni only on TV.. They saw Mahi bhai for the first time today. Mahi went inside and answered their cricketing queries.”
Raman also got some wicketkeeping tips from his idol and there were some tips for their struggling batsmen and also their middle-order batsman Ian Dev Singh, who is going through a patchy form with scores of 24, 0, 1, 13 and 2 in his last five innings.
“He explained Raman how to react in subcontinent conditions. Our batsmen going through bad patches. He said, ‘Every cricketer goes through a bad phase. When you are in good form, even a bad fielder takes a brilliant catch but it’s opposite in bad times. He said to work even harder in such testing times, be serious in the nets. You should not get out in nets. You will take confidence if you have this’.”
Having partnered Dhoni in a brief 27-run partnership in a T20I against England in Kanpur last month, Rasool was awestruck to see his game-reading capability from the other end.
The former skipper hit an unbeaten 36 from 27 balls to guide India to 147/7 in a match they lost by seven wickets.
“He hit boundary through long-on off Chris Jordan and in the next ball, he hit another boundary bisecting point and covers. He told me he knew where he would pitch the ball. I asked him how to develop that instinct? He said “Always follow a bowler’s strength. When to bowl a slower one and a faster. Our youngsters enjoyed a lot.”
Meanwhile Dhoni, who travelled with the team by train from Ranchi, is not following the same route in their return as he’s flying to Bengaluru tomorrow morning to attend the BCCI Awards and MAK Pataudi Lecture on March 8.