Injured Dhoni misses Napier Test

Napier: Any injury worries for your team? ”Nothing….hopefully as of now,” said Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a smile which should have been a give-away.

Usually Dhoni has different ways of letting his mind known. It is either a line or a word but it gives away his state of mind.

And on Wednesday as the team began training, Dhoni’s teaser of a line should have given an indication of what was planned.

Then maybe his pull-out on the morning of the Test, would not have come as a shocker to everyone.

What probably added to the mystery was Dhoni’s complete participation in the training sessions on Wednesday at the nearby Nelson Park. First he got into a routine with fielding coach Robin Singh and reserve wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.

For about half an hour the trio were involved in a drill in which Karthik and Dhoni took turns to keep wickets as Robin threw the ball at them. All through the drill there was never ever an indication that Dhoni was under strife. He bent, got up and did everything that was asked of him on Wednesday.

He then went over to a local bat manufacturer. Marty Graham who was there ready with a custom made bat for Dhoni to try out at the nets.

Dhoni had specifically requested for a bat from Graham with the middle being higher than what it was on his current bat. The Indian skipper looked happy to have the bat and spoke at length with Graham. Now Graham had prepared a similar customised bat for Sachin Tendulkar when India was here last in 2002-03.

As Graham looked on, Dhoni tried his new bat at the nets. Even then there was never an indication of any problem with Dhoni’s back. He played his strokes at will against the quick bowlers and the spinners. His bat made a good noise as the ball met it.

A quick chat with the coach Gary Kirsten on what he needs to do while trying to steal single and Dhoni was free for the day. He walked everywhere with his bat. Drank a cup of tea prepared by team’s masseur Ramesh Mane and even showed the new bat to Yuvraj Singh.

Dhoni discussed with a few of the other players about his new bat. All along it seemed that normal service was resuming on Thursday morning.

But then came a moment which should have been a give-away. After Zaheer Khan finished his stint on the physio table, Dhoni with his pads tried to get on the table flat on his stomach. But just could not.

That was the moment when things should have been clear, but there was any indication because Dhoni is capable of keeping things to himself at best of times.

In the evening, Dhoni appeared to be cheerful as he looked on from his window and saw the waterfront. He was one of the boys as he then walked upto the near building for a team meeting. Smiling like just another youngster in the team, Dhoni was preparing for one of the most important meetings which would decide the course of his team.

But on the first morning of the Test, all that had changed. The smile was still there, but it was different to see him stand right behind acting captain Virender Sehwag and watch on as the toss took place. Something had happened overnight, or as they say the back was playing up for a long time.

Dhoni was never going to let the chance to lead in yet another Test go away. He kept delaying taking a decision till the morning of the Test. But vice-captain Virender Sehwag was tipped off the night before that he might be asked to lead. So Sehwag was ready mentally.

But it took a final decision on the morning of the match that let him know that he was the man in charge. However the Indian vice-captain wasn’t even prepared for the moment when it came to going out for a toss. He did not have a blazer of his own and had to borrow one from Dhoni to go out for toss.

Whatever it was Dhoni could not sit still in the dressing room as the team first struck early blows and then struggled to pick wickets. It was a sight to see Dhoni walk out during one of the drinks break to speak to his ‘boys’.

That moment summed up what Dhoni felt about being the skipper of this team which was on the verge of history.

Did India miss Dhoni? Come back at the end of the Test to get an answer to that question.

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