My hero, my ‘Thala’: Meet three MS Dhoni superfans

The last few months have been glorious for Indian cricket with memorable wins against Australia and England. None of them featured MS Dhoni who has officially retired from all forms of international cricket.

And yet, when a video of Dhoni starting training for IPL 2021 in Chennai’s Chepauk emerged, it sent fans into a tizzy. Earlier this week, Chennai Super Kings’ official Instagram handle posted a video of him belting sixes during a practice session with the caption ‘Thala Paraak...’, borrowing a Rajinikanth line from Petta . That Dhoni and his Yellow Army are much-loved in Chennai is well known. But the cricketer and CSK have has fans all across the country, some of whom have gone to extreme lengths to prove their love. MetroPlus chats with three fans who spell out their IPL mantra for the upcoming season:

Harnam Kaur, Una (Himachal Pradesh)

Every weekend in Una, 28-year-old Harnam Kaur gathers a few of her girl friends to play cricket in their neighbourhood. What is special, you might ask. They all wear bright yellow Chennai Super Kings T-shirts with ‘Dhoni’ written on it.

Harnam’s liking for Dhoni started when she was in class six; she remembers being glued to the TV watching him back then. What started off as a mere ‘yes, I like him’ went on to become an fascination: she was soon collecting posters, watching whatever interviews he gave and following every cricket match that he was part of. Harnam also has more than ten official CSK T-shirts, with all the designs that have been released over the years.

This sales officer at a PSU has been a Dhoni fan for 15 years now. Some of her friends have even saved her name as ‘Mahi’ inon their phones. “Once, I was posted in Shimla and my foot slipped on the way to office; I had a muscle tear,” she recalls. A couple of days later, she was in Chandigarh, hopping her way to watch a CSK-Punjab game. “I hopped all the way into the stands, and people were giving me strange looks... but I just had to watch Mahi.”

Harnam’s biggest regret is that she has not yet met her cricketing hero in person, but there is a memory she will hold on to for life. “When he played for the Pune team [in IPL], I went to watch a match of his in Delhi. When he walked in to play, the entire stadium was chanting ‘Mahi, Mahi’ and I was shown on the big screen. That will be one of my most happy moments.”

R Gopikrishnan, Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu)

If you want to visit R Gopikrishnan in Arangur (Cuddalore district), you do not need Google Maps to help you. All you need is to ask locals the way to ‘Dhoni veedu ’. This die-hard fan has painted his entire house yellow, with the logo of CSK and a picture of Dhoni. Since last year, when he undertook this exercise, the house has become popular in the neighbourhood with everyone calling it ‘Dhoni house’.

The idea was a result of Gopikrishnan’s urge to do something last year, when he was far from live cricketing action (the IPL was staged in the United Arab Emirates in 2020 due to the pandemic). He also wanted to spread positivity among fans. "My family knows that I am mad about Dhoni. I pitched them this idea, and thankfully, they gave me a go ahead," recalls the 31-year-old, who is into Forex trading business. And so, in three days’ time, Gopikrishnan got his house coloured in CSK yellow. Someone shot a video, and the clip went viral; it reached Dhoni himself, who posted a reaction video to it. “I still cannot believe that he took time off to record a message for me.”

Jay Soni, Navsari (Gujarat)

At Jay Soni’s tattoo studio in Navsari, cricket is always playing on TV. In the months of April and May, regular patrons know that Jay will be unavailable for appointments in the evenings: he would be busy watching the IPL matches, especially the ones that feature Dhoni’s CSK. Jay’s childhood dream was to become a cricketer, but he veered into becoming a freelance tattoo artist in 2010, and set up his own studio in Navsari in 2015, with branches in Bardoli and Surat.

Tattoo designs might occupy most of his mindspace now, but that takes a backseat when Dhoni is playing a cricket match. “When he started out, there were famous cricketers like Sachin and Ganguly in the team...but even then, he used to control the match from behind the stumps. His body language suggested that he could take control of games; I have loved watching him and kept imitating him, since 2007,” says Jay, whose IPL mantra this year is simple: Dhoni will bring back the IPL trophy.

Jay has 20 tattoos on his body, but his most memorable is the one on his back: featuring his sporting icon. “I first got my parents’ portrait done, and in 2016, I wanted to do a tattoo on my back of something memorable. I thought hard, as I wanted it to be someone or something I will never regret for life... and I chose Dhoni. With him on my back, I firmly believe, ‘ Mere peeche Dhoni hai ...’”

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Printable version | May 26, 2022 8:37:43 pm |