There have only ever been two cricketers who have owned my heart. Kapil Dev for the longest time and then, MS Dhoni. I am committed to be a CSK or Chennai Super Kings supporter till the day Dhoni plays for them. After that, I will likely be neutral and enjoy matches without having to offer bribes in my head to the powers that be for a Dhoni win.
When Dhoni walked in today with the CSK at 17 for 4, how could I not be struck by the similarity with another match, another format, in another country, in another century?
I was, well let’s just say very little, when I sat by an ancient radio set, heart in mouth, as wicket after Indian wicket fell in far away Tunbridge Wells in England.
It was the year 1983, June 18, a day before my birthday. Five wickets had fallen for 17 runs against Zimbabwe, the top batters gone. And then captain Kapil Dev, described variously as all-rounder and bowler-batsman, batted through, taking India to 266 for 8, which Zimbabwe found unreachable.
Kapil Dev scored that magical 175 not out, in a match that has no video, because of a strike at the BBC. I sat through every one of those 50 overs, praying, my fingers and limbs in various stages of contortion. I officially stopped breathing when India were 78 for 7 as Ravi Shastri got out. My hero was batting valiantly, but there was a bleed on the other side.
As I wrote this, CSK were 78 for 7 (I kid you not) with Dwayne Bravo out to a brilliant catch by Tilak Varma off Kumar Kartikeya. MS anchored the other end and I was reminding him that he had a lot fewer overs to see through than did Kapil Dev 39 years ago. Kapil was playing a 60-over-a-side match, Dhoni a 20-20
Would he, wouldn’t he? The heart was back in the mouth. I had wagered that CSK would score at least 150. Mumbai Indian fans watching the match with me were rooting for my captain getting out on every ball that he played.
Wankhede Stadium, home for MI, rang out with cheers of “Dhoni, Dhoni.” Much loved man that.
CSK didn’t get to 150. Not even to 100. Beside me a wager was won – these MI fans really.
Tunbridge Wells didn’t happen. But I learned again that I am the steadfast sort. Dhoni dashing for a single to get to bat the next over – and resulting in number 10 Mukesh Choudhary getting run out – is the stuff of .
MS Dhoni keeps my heart.