A much-awaited homecoming
It took a very 'low profile guy' who came up the ranks and played for India to put Jharkhand on India's cricketing map. Or that is at least how Nishant Dayal, a childhood mate of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, describes the Indian captain's almost non-chalant role in turning a hinterland into a state that has thrown up several talents since, hosts its own T20 league and now, has its own stadium about to host its first One-day International.
It will be Dhoni's first international match in his home town when India take on England on Saturday and little wonder that the excitement is palpable. Needless to say, the stadium which has a capacity of 39,000, will be full despite being more than 15 kilometres off the main city square.
But Dhoni's impact is not just in keeping the fans excited. It has been a while since Dhoni may have played for his state side, but the simple truth is that without Dhoni, cricket in Jharkhand will not be anywhere near where it is. Before Dhoni, Saba Karim was the lone and tenuous link the state had to international cricket. The former India stumper played one Test and 34 ODIs, but he played almost all his cricket for Bengal. But just a few years later, Jharkhand can boast of several cricketers that have risen up the ranks.
Saurabh Tiwary has already played for India and so has Varun Aaron. Ishank Jaggi is a promising talent with the bat while Shahbaz Nadeem is one of the top-wicket takers this Ranji season. The team itself has performed consistently in recent years. "Before Dhoni, people hardly knew that cricket was played in Jharkhand. Now we are taken seriously at national level. We won the Vijay Hazare Trophy two years ago. We qualified for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals this season. Now we have the infrastructure and the facilities to ensure that talents are properly nurtured. Every youngster wants to become like Dhoni," Tiwary told The Indian Express.