For Jharkhand, it’s all about ‘mentor’ Dhoni

It is not surprising that most members of the Jharkhand squad, barring an unheralded Monu Singh, who has mustered enough courage to play pranks on Dhoni, are in awe of their two-time World Cup winning skipper.

Jharkhand skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni with teammates at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.   -  Photo: PTI

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘perfect smile’ amidst his abundance of grey stubble may signify his journey as a mentor to younger cricketers in the fag end of his illustrious career.

It is not surprising that most members of the Jharkhand squad, barring an unheralded Monu Singh, who has mustered enough courage to play pranks on Dhoni, are in awe of their two-time World Cup winning skipper.

Notwithstanding Dhoni’s effort to bridge the gap, evident from the train journey to Howrah along with his teammates, some Jharkhand players prefer to maintain a distance from the iconic cricketer.

“I respect him, so I maintain a distance. However, if I have anything to know about cricket, I go up to him and ask,” said top-order batsman Virat Singh on Thursday, following Jharkhand’s nets session at the Eden Gardens here ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day matches.

“It is great to have him with us. He is a legend and I cannot say enough about him…His leadership qualities, the way he handles things and stays calm and composed on the field are things to learn from him.”

It is all about Dhoni’s impact as a player and his aura as a match-winner. About 100 fans who were glued to their places at the Eden through the three-hour training session must have been driven by the magic of the man on a cricket field in the last one decade.

Of late, Dhoni’s self-assumed role of a guide has helped him grow in stature.

As a non-playing member, he had mentored Jharkhand in its first Ranji Trophy semi-final appearance against Gujarat at Nagpur in December. Even after quitting captaincy of the national side, he has been helping his successor Virat Kohli with valuable inputs about limited overs cricket.

The session at the Eden on Thursday was another instance of Dhoni sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow cricketers.

Donning a pair of shorts, a Jharkhand jersey and a navy blue hat, Dhoni keenly oversaw his team’s preparation. Even while getting engaged in some football action, an hour of spin bowling and batting in short phases, his watchful eyes kept assessing his colleagues.

There was a conscious effort from him to let others train and be prepared for contests against quality oppositions like Karnataka, Hyderabad and Saurashtra.

For Dhoni, now it is not about proving himself anymore. It is about drawing a sense of fulfilment by allowing the next generation of cricketers to flourish.