Dhoni is more brave than being lucky, says his first coach Banerjee
The man who taught Indian cricket team’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the basics of cricket is hopeful that his one-time ward will bring glory to the country by winning the world cup. "I will certainly tender few advices to him after his return from South Africa," says Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, adding that the Indian world cup squad is a well-balanced one.
The association between Banerjee and Dhoni goes back a long way. While Dhoni got admitted in kindergarten in the Mecon company run Jawahar Vidya Mandir in Ranchi in 1987, Banerjee joined the school a year later as a sports teacher, coaching pupils in class 6 to 12 in football, basketball and cricket.
Gurudakshina: M S Dhoni’s school coach Keshav Ranjan Banerjee has only wish from his protégé – give us the world cup
“He would play football when he was in class 6. His interest was in all the sports including badminton. Later he developed into a good goalkeeper,” recalls the 45-years-old coach. The real turnaround in Dhoni’s career came when Banerjee offered to take him in the school cricket team when he was in class 7. “I asked ‘would you like to do wicket keeping? He said, ‘why not if I get a chance?’ Since then Dhoni was our keeper,” recalls Banerjee.
“He had a good physique and power. I would take all the students for 5-6 hours of daily practice at Mecon ground. We used to play on the mat with bumpy surface, where the odd ball would come to you as a bouncer and the next one would keep very low,” says Banerjee, adding that the condition made him a comfortable hooker and puller of the cricket ball with high quality precession and quick response.
Like a true guru, Banerjee denounces those who put a tag of ‘lucky’ on his most loved pupil. “I consider him more brave than lucky. He was not considered due to his lower age from a trial at Mecon despite good show. Later he opted to play for Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Central Coalfield Limited (CCL).”
Dhoni made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bihar in the 1999–2000 season as an 18 year old - a year before Jharkhand was formed. After Bihar’s bifurcation, Dhoni represented Jharkhand.
He came into the limelight during a Ranji match played between Jharkhand and Karnataka with a quick-fire innings. After several good showings in the inter-state tournaments he got a chance to play for India.
Stardom does not prevent Dhoni from touching Banerjee’s feet whenever they meet. “He is like the same old Mahi for me. He has not changed a bit. He calls me whenever he is in Ranchi and I go to meet him. He can’t visit my place due to security reasons,” he reveals.
Does MS still seek a tip or two from him? “Does he require them now? He has the facility to play with so many international players and coaches,” he says with a smile. Though, he still has something to tell Dhoni. “He has some problem with swing bowling. He has to move his front foot a bit more. He keeps himself away from the ball.”
Banerjee, who lives in a two bedroom flat with his seriously ailing wife and very young son, however, is away from any recognition “Children of the locality come and request me to take them to Dhoni. His association with me brings some sort of satisfaction. I don’t demand anything more from him except the next world cup,” says Banerjee before leaving for his evening practice with a fresh lot of kids.