Sourav Ganguly was Team India captain then and Yuvraj Singh a rising star. Those days, Mahendra Singh Dhoni worked as a railway ticket collector in West Bengal’s Kharagpur. The shy, reticent Mahi is now Indian skipper. And, winner of the World Cup.
Kharagpur residents have not forgotten Dhoni who stayed at the railway town for about three years. On Saturday, his former colleagues and locals performed yajnas, pujas and prayed hard for ‘Captain Cool’. Many of them remembered how Dhoni cycled around the town and played cricket with tennis balls on practically every ground in and around Kharagpur.
He was known as a cricket crazy lad then. No one knew he was meant for bigger things.
Dhoni came here as a 20-year-old in 2001, desperately seeking a job. The then divisional railway manager of South Eastern Railway Animesh Kumar Ganguly, a cricket fanatic, was desperately looking for a wicket-keeper batsman.
“Ganguly took Mahi to the South Eastern Railway Sports Association stadium, bowled him 60 balls and came back satisfied. Dhoni got the job in sports quota,” said a nostalgic Siddhartha Chatterjee. He was the captain when Dhoni played for a local club.
Everyone in this town seems to have similar stories to tell. Since early Saturday morning, the railway town had only cricket and Dhoni in their mind. Ranjan Chakraborty was busy with a puja at Durga temple for Dhoni at 6am. At another puja, a huge cut-out of Hanumanji stood beside a giant replica of the World Cup trophy.
But Dhoni’s tryst with Kharagpur ended abruptly in 2003, when he began getting calls for bigger matches. He quit the railways job and joined the erstwhile Indian Airlines . A few years ago he came to Kharagpur to meet his friends quietly. “That was the last time he was here. We all stole into a train compartment and had dinner,” said a friend. TNN