Apart from sharing their last names, Ajay Kumar, Rakesh Kumar and Satish Kumar have also two more things in common - all had played with Mahendra Singh Dhoni in local cricket league and are now working journalists in Team India Captain’s home town Ranchi.
But the trio hardly thought when playing local cricket that a day would come the Kumars would watch Dhoni leading the country in one day international at a stadium, not far from the grounds they shared golden moments with the 'Colonel'.
Come Saturday, Dhoni’s former local teammates are expected to congregate at the newly constructed JSCA International Stadium Complex when Dhoni would lead the team against England in the third ODI.
"I am wonder struck! It’s a moment of pride for us and glory for Ranchi that one among us has gone on to become the captain," Ajay Kumar, who used to play from Youth Sporting Club alongwith Dhoni, says nostalgically.
Going down the memory lane, Rakesh Kumar, who works with a news channel and has the opportunity to cover his buddy playing on January 19, narrates some of the happier moments he spent with Dhoni.
"Players of our Royal Sports Club used to bet that the player wearing the costliest cap should gift it to the player playing the best knock.
"Dhoni used to win quite a few. Once in a league match, Dhoni was so thrilled winning the SG cap for playing a winning knock of 63 runs that one has to see to believe it," Rakesh Kumar shares.
Sharing another interesting episode occurred in 1995/96, Rakesh Kumar said, "We won the 'B' division league, and expected that some photo journalist would come to take a snap and publish it in the local newspaper. But nobody turned up. So we all went to 'Crown Studio' in Ranchi and got a snap. That photo became hit after Dhoni’s success."
Satish Kumar, who played with Dhoni for about five years in the Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) team, said Dhoni was passionate with cricket and used to play with the same seriousness both friendly and official matches.
"He never tolerated loss. Once he struck over 70 runs in a league match in a day/night tournament in Lucknow, but our CCL team had lost that match. Dhoni was adjudged as the Man of the Match and got a tea set as a gift. He was so dejected with the loss that he dropped the tea in the dressing room saying, what use of it when the team lost the game .. we had won that tournament after playing good cricket thereafter," Satish Kumar added.
"I never thought that my junior will one day not only conquer the cricketing world but would lead the country in our home town, which had never hosted any international match," Dhoni’s one time pal and now an advocate, Suraj Mohan, says.
"In 2000 Dhoni joined friends to dance at a baraat (marriage procession) of a friend. One of our friends Sailesh lifted Dhoni high up and asked the video cameraman to shoot the scene as Dhoni is going to become a great player, and I would keep the CD for posterity," Mohan said, adding the CD was with him.
The then CCL captain, Adil Hussain, who had also led Bihar Ranji team, said, "We are all proud that Dhoni has made it big... he never used to tolerate loss... I hope and wish Dhoni continues with the same form displayed in the current series to even it."
All of these former colleagues of Dhoni have shared that, "Dhoni has not changed a bit. He inquires about us whenever he comes here. He talks the same way as he used to talk with us in his formative years of the game."
"We former state cricketers are planning to watch the ODI together to see enjoy Dhoni leading Team India. Then only I can share my feelings," Hussain said when asked how he feels Dhoni leading the country in his home town, which hardly used to get even good Ranji matches as Jamshedpur had the lion’s share till recently.