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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Dashing Dhoni's chance discovery
By Arjun Sandhu

India's new batting sensation Mahendra Dhoni had his career shaped by a chance invitation a decade ago from a games teacher at his school in the eastern city of Ranchi.

At the time, Dhoni, now 23, preferred football and was an energetic goal-keeper.

Dhoni gave no quarter in his thrilling innings on Tuesday
Dhoni gave no quarter in his thrilling innings on Tuesday

But his coach saw the potential for him to fill the wicket-keeper's slot that had few talented contenders

In a cricket-addicted nation, Dhoni was taking his first cricketing steps at a late stage.

But he soon developed a liking for the new sport and gave up the football goal-keeper's task.

Dhoni says the shift from his football obsession came in the 1994-95 season.

A year later he was on the Bihar state's under-16 squad, which ensured he never thought of playing football again.

"I liked this new wicket-keeper's role - I gradually became fond of cricket and I wasn't missing football," Dhoni tells BBC Sport.

In only his fifth one-day international, he emerged as the new star of India's cricketing scenario with a tremendous century.

He hammered Pakistan's attack for 148 runs off just 123 balls faced, with four massive sixes and 16 boundaries.

Unsurprisingly, Pakistan had no answer to that.

A tall wicket-keeper who has fashionably long hair - untypically so for an Indian cricketer - Dhoni also reflects a change from a string of short wicket-keepers representing the nation.

But it is his batting prowess that has India's coach John Wright singing hia praises.

Dhoni looks set to be one of the more flamboyant Indian players
Dhoni looks set to be one of the more flamboyant Indian players

"He's a phenomenal talent," says Wright. "As a batsman he provides the team with so many options,"

His family hails from the northern, hilly region of Almora in waht is now Uttaranchal state, but his father moved to Ranchi on taking up a modest job.

Dhoni's father, Pan Singh, says: "I was a low-scale wage employee with limited resources.

"Probably I couldn't support him as a cricket player, but we never opposed his decisions."

Dhoni's aggressive batting was inspired by watching Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist and he has often been termed "the Indian Gilchrist."

However, 22 runs in four one-day internationals was all he had accumulated before Wright and Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly sounded him out about batting higher up in the second one-dayer against Pakistan.

It was a chance for Dhoni to showcase his batting skills - an opportunity he grabbed with both hands.

"It was a good opportunity and I realised it was important for me to score runs," he says.

Replacing Dravid

"I was playing in my fifth one-day international, and didn't even have a score of 15 against my name."

"I usually bat number three or open the innings in Ranji Trophy matches - it suits my stroke-play to bat high up in the order."

Dhoni expressed no surprise four months ago when India abandoned the long practice of Rahul Dravid, the vice-captain and key batsman, doubling up as the wicket-keeper.

As the selectors sought to try out new players against Bangladesh, Dhoni got his chance ahead of Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik, who is now the Test wicket-keeper.

Gilchrist's influence is clearly evident in Dhoni's outlook, who is no longer pursuing the chosen careers of his other two sporting heroes, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane.

And his sudden international success means he might be parted for some time from his ticket-collector's job with Indian Railways.


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