File image of MS Dhoni with Suresh Raina© Twitter
When MS Dhoni Burst on to the Indian cricket scene, he was unlike any other player. Hailing from Ranchi, Jharkhand, with long hair, Dhoni was an exception. With his unorthodox shots and approach, Dhoni soon became a household name after making his debut for the Indian cricket team in 2004. He went on to become India’s most successful captain. He will be leading Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 and ahead of the event, his long-time teammate Suresh Raina recalled their first meeting.
Such was the impact of the Raina-Dhoni alliance that Chennai Super Kings fans fondly called Raina ‘Chinna Thala’ after Dhoni became their ‘Thala’.
On a new episode of ‘My Time with Dhoni’ on JioCinema, Raina recalled the moment he first witnessed Dhoni and his penchant for big-hitting. In 2004, Raina represented Central Zone, and got first-hand a taste of Dhoni’s prowess, who was playing for the East Zone.
“We were hearing a lot about a player with long hair from Jharkhand known for hitting it out of the park consistently,” recalled Raina. “This one day, we all were hanging around while Dhoni bhai was quietly eating his roti and butter chicken in a corner. Gyanu bhai saw him and said, ‘I really don’t think he’s going to do us any harm. He’s enjoying his food; let him do that’,” Raina remembered.
When the action began, Dhoni came out to bat, and Central Zone skipper Mohammed Kaif put an attacking field with slips and a gully. “From the word go, he hit gagan chumbhi (touching the sky) sixes, and Gyanu bhai had to eat his words,” said Raina, who then witnessed MSD’s hard-hitting and finishing skills from close quarters while playing for India and CSK.
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