The last time Australia visited India for a Test series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed the visitors to pulp with a marathon knock of 224, the highest Test score ever by an Indian wicketkeeper. Despite an unconventional, unlovely batting technique, Dhoni managed to carve quite a niche for himself even in the Test whites, a format few predicted he would do well in.
Four years later, he made a comeback, this time as a spectator for the final day of the third Test between India and Australia, giving the Indian team support from the sidelines in a format he quit in 2014 to prolong his Test career. The former India captain was seen watching the proceedings from the stands, arriving at the JSCA stadium a day after completing duties for his state team in the domestic 50-over tournament.
Reports had earlier come in that MS Dhoni would not be able to attend the Test at Ranchi owing to his commitments with the Jharkhand side as part of the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. However, the team’s 41-run loss to Bengal in the semi-finals, Dhoni got just enough time to squeeze out visit to see his former teammates lock horns with the Australian side.
Dhoni might have retired from the longest game, and given up captaincy from the other two formats, but his popularity hardly seems to have taken a hit. At the Air force ground in Palam last week, Dhoni’s name drew crowds aplenty. While the entry inside the premises was restricted, hundreds of fans clung to the fence to catch a glimpse of their hero. One of them managed to even sneak through security and steal an autograph from the star wicketkeeper.
Incidentally, the JSCA stadium was the home ground for the Chennai Super Kings a couple of years back, at a time when Dhoni was associated with the now suspended franchise.
The organisers made it a point to invite Dhoni for one of the days, making sure that the fans get to see the local lad before he dons the Pune kit for the upcoming edition of the IPL. He made an entry into the ground around noon, amidst a rousing welcome from his home crowd. Dhoni was present with his friends and family, but left the ground before Virat Kohli and Peter Handscomb shook hands and brought the match to a close. The series stays tied at 1-1, with the final match set to be held in Dharamsala.