Only a few would argue the fact that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is cricket's Man of Steel. In his long international career, Dhoni has rarely missed games due to injury. His tough resolve and passion for playing for the country has always been unquestionable. Even at a time when he is no longer the India captain and plays only limited-overs cricket, Dhoni has not let his guards down and has kept himself extremely fit and is still the best limited-overs wicket-keeper batsman in India. Before the start of the ongoing India vs Sri Lanka ODI series, India's chief selector MSK Prasad had said that Dhoni was no longer an "automatic choice" in the Indian team. And now two weeks later, Dhoni has guided India to victory in two back-to-back ODIs against Sri Lanka. With the Indian team looking to get its combinations right for the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni's latest show is surely going to take the pressure off the Indian think-tank.
Speaking at an event, selector Prasad shared a narrative about Dhoni, underlining the former captain's commitment for the team. Prasad, who was a selector during that time, recalled an incident when Dhoni injured himself while working out at the gym before a crucial match against Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
"While training at the gym late in the night, Dhoni picked up weights and suddenly there was a catch in his back and fell with the weight. Thankfully, the weight did not fall on him. He could not walk, he was literally crawling. He pressed the alarm bell, and the medical staff immediately came and attended him. He was taken on stretcher."
"As I reached Dhaka, the journalists questioned about Dhoni and I had no answers. The game against Pakistan was crucial, that too, it was on a seaming track. So, I went to Dhoni's room to know what the issue was. He said, 'don't worry MSK bhai.' I even asked him what should I tell the scribes, and the answer again was 'don't worry MSK bhai.' I asked him whether we should call for a replacement, and he again told me not to worry,", Prasad said.
However, Prasad was worried about Dhoni's potential absence in the high-pressure match and decided to call up a back-up wicket-keeper.
"There was so much pressure before a big match. The next morning I went to his room and he told me not to worry. But I felt things were not right. (As a selector) I couldn't take Dhoni's words for granted, so I called up the then chief selector Sandeep Patil and told him the situation. Immediately, Parthiv Patel was sent in as a replacement. By evening, Parthiv had joined the team," Prasad said.
"I went to his room in the evening and he was just trying to get up from his bed. I asked him if things are alright. As per the Asia Cup rules, we had to submit the team list 24 hours before a game, so I had to check on him. He clearly said that he would play," he added.
Prasad once again went to Dhoni's room for chat.
"Again at 11pm, when I went to his room, he was not there. Fortunately, I went to the top floor and I saw Dhoni was trying hard to walk towards the swimming pool. He was literally crawling. Dhoni said he was trying to walk. I was thinking how could he even think of playing when he could barely walk. Dhoni looked at me and said, 'don't worry, you have anyway got Parthiv without telling me. So, you are safe," Prasad said.
However, on the match day, Dhoni padded up and took everyone by surprise. He later went on to lead India to to victory against Pakistan in that match.
"Before the team was announced in the afternoon, Dhoni was all dressed up for the game. He called me to his room and asked me why was I worrying so much? Then he said, even if my one leg is not there, I will still play against Pakistan. This is what Dhoni is made of," Prasad concluded.