Those few minutes with MS Dhoni…

In 2009, I was one of the anchors for the Indian Premier League and travelled to South Africa to cover it, where I met my Jharkhand state-mate.

In boarding school, the only source of receiving information about cricket was the statistics published in Sportstar magazine, writes Meiyang Chang.

When we were growing up in the small town of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, there were no such international sporting heroes from the state. The world still hadn’t heard about Mahendra Singh Dhoni. So, as kids our world would revolve around the local cricket matches, the sports pages of newspapers and collecting those huge posters from the Sportstar magazine.

We would play tennis ball cricket at our housing society premises and on most of the days, there would be complaints from neighbours about us breaking their window panes. But those things did not stop us from playing regularly. Our society had an area called ‘Sangam Sthal,' where all the residents would meet for social gatherings and we would mostly play there as stepping out of the society was a strict ‘no, no’.

Every now and then there would be demands that we should not be playing there as we ended up breaking the window panes. But every time, we managed to convince the elders to allow us play at the Sangam Sthal. That’s how we fell in love with sports.

After a few years, I was sent to boarding school in Mussoorie and Dehradun, where there was no way to watch cricket on television or listening to radio commentary. So, every time I would be back home on breaks, I made it a point to play my heart out. In boarding school, the only source of receiving information about cricket was the statistics published in Sportstar magazine. We would cut the pages and stock them. Today, in the age of technology, it may sound funny, but that’s how we grew up.

In 2009, I was one of the anchors for the Indian Premier League and travelled to South Africa to cover it. I was so star struck for the first few days. With so many players moving around, it felt like a dream. t was also a pleasure working with seasoned hosts Gaurav Kapur, Mandira Bedi and Harsha Bhogle. But the main excitement was to interview so many star cricketers.

In that tournament, I interviewed two stumpers — M. S. Dhoni and Adam Gilchrist — and they both made my moments. I remember asking a lame question to Gilchrist and still remembered how he reacted! But meeting Dhoni was special as we both hailed from the same State. So, I had to interview him for a minute or so in Port Elizabeth, and I completely forgot the questions I had to ask him.

All I could manage to tell him was that both of us are from Jharkhand. He asked me, “Arey kidhar se ho?” (Where are you from?)

On telling him Dhanbad, he told me stories on how they would travel to Dhanbad for age-group cricket in whites. But by the time they went back, the clothes would be soiled. On the tour, I also met Shane Warne and Graeme Smith, but Dhoni was someone very special. Despite being an icon, he warmed up to me and it felt like as if we knew each other for long. It was great connecting with my state-mate, who is also one of the legends.

Later, I have come across various sporting heroes, but meeting Dhoni will always remain special. Thanks for the memories, MS!

Meiyang Chang is an actor, singer and television host.

As told to Shayan Acharya.