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Dhoni enjoying the novel experience

Paul Weaver

In England, he can walk around without being mobbed


Dhoni is crazy about motorbikes

He almost opted for football


— FILE Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

PIN-UP BOY: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the new celebrity in Indian cricket.

London: It is unusual for a famous young man to revel in anonymity but Mahendra Singh Dhoni is enjoying the novel experience. The new celebrity of the Indian cricket team says: “In England it is lovely. I can walk the streets, I can sit in McDonalds, I can go everywhere and no one recognises me.”

Even though he is only 26 and has been in international cricket for less than three years, these are rare delights for the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman.

Ian Botham and David Gower had the same experience when they walked down New York’s Fifth Avenue a few years ago, revelling in the fact that no one knew them, though for stars the novelty can wear off.

Handsome and brilliant

Dhoni is the pin-up in cricket’s most passionate land. If Sachin Tendulkar is the game’s richest and most adored player then Dhoni, handsome and brilliant, is the most plausible threat to his kingdom.

For the moment Dhoni enjoys it that way. “When we are walking through airports, I love to walk behind Sachin because that is a time when you can really sneak through. You sense all eyes are on him.

“I have to cut down my outings (in India),” he said. “I cannot go everywhere. I have to be careful. There are places where I will get mobbed. I don’t get frightened because I know it is not a security risk.

“When you see a couple of hundred people surrounding you, your first thought is, ‘How do I get out of here?’ but I am never frightened.”

If he was, one senses, he would have enough speed to get out of the situation. For, speed is at the heart of both his game and his personality. He is mad about motorbikes.

“I have two superbikes. I am a big bike freak. I have a Kawasaki ZX14 and it goes from zero to 100kph in 2.5 seconds. Where I live (Ranchi) we have no speed limits but you find you can only go as fast as the vehicle in front of you, so that is a kind of speed limit.”

He plays cricket with speed too. His 2,302 one-day runs (average 46.98) have been scored at a fraction under a run a ball.

In October 2005, he struck 183 not out from 145 balls, including 10 sixes, against Sri Lanka.

Hit the ball hard

Dhoni used to play with a canvas ball as a boy when “you have to hit the ball hard. That is the only thing to do in that form of the game. You are looking for a six every ball.

“There is no point in singles or fours. You are regarded as unfortunate to hit a four.” The Twenty20 game would embrace him.

Supports Man U

He almost opted for football — he supports Manchester United.

“When I was 12 or 13, there used to be a camp for football near where I lived and at that age I was inclined towards football. I practised for a couple of years. Then, my school team needed me as a wicketkeeper.” England might curse his school this summer.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007

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