Former Indian cricketer Robin Uthappa on Saturday revealed the moment when he knew that former skipper and legendary wicketkeeper-batter MS Dhoni would go on to play for India.
Robin Uthappa and MS Dhoni have known each other for two decades. Uthappa witnessed Dhoni's meteoric rise from close quarters, and fondly recalled the time they spent together in an episode of 'My Time With Heroes' titled 'My Time With Dhoni ft. Uthappa', available exclusively on JioCinema.
Uthappa said: "His simplicity is something that has always been there and it is something that has not changed. He is just as simple today as he was the first time I met him. Dhoni is the most uncomplicated person in the world."
The former India batter shared the story of meeting Dhoni for the first time in 2003. "The first time I saw MS was in 2003 at an India camp at NCA Bangalore. He was batting against Munaf Patel back when he used to bowl really fast with the sling action. Other fast bowlers were also bowling. MS was batting and hitting long sixes off them. He actually ended up injuring S Sriram. Sriram was bowling to him and Dhoni stepped out and hit the ball extremely hard. Sriram touched it with his hand and the ball went 10-20 yards back. We thought Sriram was running after the ball, but he ran past it and straight into the dressing room because he broke two fingers. We wanted to see how much power MS has and it was explosive. At that moment, I knew he was going to play for India. He's a special batsman," Uthappa said.
MS Dhoni went on to not only play for India, but also helped Indian cricket reach new heights, leading them to ICC T20 World Cup 2007, ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and ICC Champions Trophy 2013 wins as a captain, becoming the only skipper to have won these major titles. He scored 10,773 in 350 ODIs with 10 centuries and 73 fifties at an average of 50.57. He has also scored 4,876 runs in 90 Tests with six tons and 33 fifties at an average of 38.09. In 98 T20Is, he has scored 1,617 runs at an average of 37.60, with two fifties to his name.
"We used to always eat together. We had a group: Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Munaf (Patel), MS and me. We would order dal makhni, butter chicken, jeera aloo, gobi and rotis. But MS is a very rigid person when it comes to eating. He would eat butter chicken but without the chicken, only with the gravy! When he ate chicken, he would not eat the rotis. He is quite weird when it comes to eating," recalled the 37-year-old with a hearty laugh.
Dhoni enjoyed phenomenal success as a captain, both for India and CSK, and Uthappa explained the reason for this. "He has sharp instincts and he backs his own instincts. That's why he has been such a successful captain. He takes responsibility for every outcome, whether it is a win or a loss. If he takes a bad decision because of his instincts, the man cannot sleep for a few days. He starts overthinking. If a good captain's instincts are sound 4 or 5 out of 10 times, Dhoni's instincts are sound 8 times or 9 times."
Uthappa also spoke about Dhoni's other traits. "MS is a very open person. He does not hesitate in speaking the truth, even if it hurts you." He shared the first conversation he had with Dhoni after the IPL auction a few years ago.
"I remember when I was signed by CSK in the auction, he called me and said, 'I am not sure if you'll get a chance to play because the season is still far away and I haven't given it any thought. If you do end up playing, I will let you know.' By now, I had enjoyed 13 successful years in the IPL. Still, he told me to my face what he had to do. I still appreciate that a lot," said Uthappa.
About his time at CSK in Dhoni's presence, Uthappa said: "In the first season, I saw everyone in the squad calling him Mahi bhai. I went up to him and asked if I should call him Mahi bhai too. He dismissed it saying, call me what you want, it makes no difference. Please call me Mahi only."
MS Dhoni will be seen in action during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, where his side Chennai Super Kings will play the tournament opener against defending champions Gujarat Titans on March 31. (ANI)