Thala Dhoni: The cricketer Chennai loved back

Chepauk features prominently in M.S. Dhoni's career reel. The ground's former curator shares his memories of the CSK skipper as he turns 39.

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.'s former chief curator remembers the humility and stardom of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.   -  AP

The relationship between M.S. Dhoni and his fans is organic, unsullied by the market forces that have found new dimensions to Dhoni’s game and sponsors to christen them with. And in Chennai, where he is, in many ways, the city’s adopted son, Dhoni has always got a warm welcome and unconditional love. “He calls me Anna!,” says K. Parthasarathy, former chief curator at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.

“Despite his enormous achievements, he is such a grounded person. He is humble, doesn't worry, and I’ve never seen him get angry,” adds Parthasarathy.

READ: Dhoni is best captain India ever had, says Raina

Chepauk has been one of Dhoni’s most successful venues in cricket. It is where he made a dazzling Test double century — his first in international cricket — against Australia in 2013, and has relished the chants of CSK! CSK! CSK! as he bludgeoned the opposition attack, leading the Chennai Super Kings to three Indian Premier League (IPL) titles.

Parthasarathy says Dhoni has always valued the ground-staff, and those who work tirelessly behind the scenes. “He has time for us, he would always enquire about our families. After the match, he walks to us and thanks us personally,” says Parthasarathy.

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Chepauk has been a special ground for M.S. Dhoni. This is where he made a dazzling Test double century — his first in international cricket — against Australia in 2013.   -  K PICHUMANI

 

The 67-year-old Parthasarathy has been a curator at Chepauk for more than four decades, during which he has formed a close bond with some of the biggest names in Indian cricket. Dhoni is no different. “He is always very jolly when he comes to Chepauk. We talk about a lot of things, not just cricket. A few years ago, I remember he obliged my grandson with a picture and a video.”

Dhoni left the CSK training camp in Chennai in March, following the suspension of the 13th edition of IPL in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. That was also the last time Parthasarathy met Dhoni. “I had a heart surgery recently… and he asked me how I was faring. That was a nice gesture. He is still hitting those big sixes as you must’ve seen during the training camp here. I think he still has a lot of cricket left in him.”

Dhoni, a World Cup winner, may no more be a man at the height of his powers but to Parthasarathy and the legion of doting supporters, he will always remain the cricketer Chennai loved back.

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