The goalie who became a keeper

Ranchi, Jan. 18: For saving its face in literally every game it plays now, the famed Indian batting line-up should thank one Keshab Banerjee for spotting a goalkeeper in football and deciding to mould him into wicketkeeper in cricket.

Confused? Well then, please meet the senior section games teacher at Ranchi's Jawahar Vidya Mandir, who wanted to groom someone to wear the big gloves as his school team wicketkeeper was in Class XI and his services were to be available for just one year more.

And who should that little boy be but national captain-to-be Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "Dhoni was in Class V then and he could not imagine I was already thinking of him representing the school. When I proposed he start focusing on wicketkeeping, he humbly asked me: "Hum ko chance milega kya, sir (Will I really get a chance to play, sir)?" said Banerjee. "Funny isn't it, he can walk into any side in the world," said the coach with a content smile.

So, that was the first time that Dhoni played with a leather ball and the going was not smooth from the start. "The first time he wore the keepers' gloves, he was trying to catch the ball with his palms vertical, like a fish tries to catch its prey. But he was attentive and picked things up fast," said the coach pointing to the area of the field for senior boys at Shyamoli Colony school, where Dhoni's training had begun.

"I saw his batting could be technically stronger and that he could be a bit too adventurous but as he started formal training in cricket late and foundation had already been laid, I let him follow his heart," Banerjee added.

Banerjee, originally from Chittaranjan in Burdwan district of Bengal, graduated from Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education in Gwalior before going on to get a National Cricket Academy accreditation.

Like any good coach, he sensed early that Dhoni was a natural. And so he didn't push him on technique.

Dhoni's success as a batsman, he said, came a little while after joining formal training as he took time to adjust to the leather ball. But once he got the hang of it, the big shots started flowing. Banerjee remembers Dhoni, who was called Mahi even then by friends as well as teachers, had hit a towering six in an Under-16 inter-school match at the Mecon ground near his school. "We had measured it. It was a stunning 96 metres," said the coach, half in disbelief.

Banerjee vouches that Dhoni has not changed a bit even in the face of "untold success" as far as his equation with friends and close acquaintances goes just as he has remained as cool and composed as he always was. Even erstwhile neighbour Nagalakshmi Pani, a college teacher, at the Mecon Colony he used to stay briefly with his parents said that Dhoni used to be quite relaxed when at home, even though it was after his international debut.

"One of my daughters, who goes to the same school he used to, is quite a serious badminton player. Learning that, Dhoni, who himself was a very good badminton player, took her aside one day and gave her tips on how to train. He even told her how the Indian players stay fit," she said. The coach also said that something else that had not changed about Dhoni was his love for two-wheelers.

Standing at the school field, he recalled how his own son, who was only five then, had got hurt during practice and needed to be escorted home, which was a few blocks away. He asked Dhoni to take the child to his home because the practice was still on.

"At first, he was reluctant but when I offered my then new Bajaj Chetak scooter, he readily took up the job. The funny part was that he did not return the bike for quite a few hours. His excuse was that he had become hungry and gone home for a snack. I knew he just wanted to ride the scooter and did not tell him anything," said the man who still rides that scooter.Dhoni, of course, now has at least 10 bikes, including Suzuki 1200 CC Ninja and Harley Davidson imported from the US.And what about the girls in school, especially because the fairer sex is crazy about him now? "Well, I remember some girls not letting him leave class for a school match. They were telling the teacher that he should sign autographs for them lest he become too famous later. All this while Mahi remained calm and waited for some teacher to intervene. It was all in banter but see how the prophecy has come true," said Banerjee, who had rescued Mahi that day.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Hyderabad vs Rajasthan

On Now: Hyderabad vs Rajasthan

Abu Dhabi: Rajasthan bowlers check Hyderabad's scoring rate. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

As two of the most glamorous sides in the Indian T20 league, the focus of the match between Mumbai and Bangalore will invariably be on the middle-order… More »

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »