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Everyone loves a good Dhoni

Thursday, June 21, 2021
Utpal Parashar

Kathmandu: By now the entire cricketing world, that's a total of 105 countries, must be aware that Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become a goodwill ambassador for cricket in neighbouring Nepal. The flamboyant 31-year-old, ranked the 31st richest sportsperson in the world with annual earnings of $26.5 million by Forbes magazine, was on a whirlwind trip of Kathmandu last Saturday with wife Sakshi.

And everybody in this Himalayan nation, facing a constitutional and political crisis following dissolution of the Constituent Assembly for failure to draft a new constitution on time, loved it.

Though Dhoni's friendship with an Indian diplomat posted in Kathmandu was the initial trigger for the visit, the Indian embassy quickly termed it official and used the trip to "promote bilateral ties".

Cricket Association of Nepal was also pulled in and Dhoni imparted tips on technique and temperament to the country's U-19 team and senior players from the men and women's teams.

Captain Cool who is never at loss for words made the right noises by stating how despite knowing almost next to nothing about cricket in Nepal, he would love to promote the game here.

Tourism minister Posta Bahadur Bogati used the opportunity to name Dhoni goodwill ambassador for Nepali cricket. Everyone hoped the visit will put international spotlight on cricket in the football-crazy nation.

A mismanaged 'Evening with Dhoni' kept the lucky invited guests happy as they got a chance to pose for photos, get autographs and ask questions. Nepal's cricket coach Sri Lankan Pubudu Dassanayake and senior players had to be content standing in the sidelines.

President Ram Baran Yadav, the man in the spotlight after the government became 'caretaker', met Dhoni to discuss cricket. And those at Maiti Nepal, the NGO involved in rescuing Nepali girls trafficked to Indian brothels, too got their bit of Dhoni time.

The visit grabbed headlines all over and one newspaper editorial hoped it would "help in adding to the sport's sex appeal in the country".

After a customary visit to Pashupatinath Temple, Dhoni flew back to India. And things returned to normal in Kathmandu with a split in the ruling Maoist party two days later.

HT Content & Syndication Services