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Early life and background
Dhoni was born in Ranchi, Bihar (now in Jharkhand), and he hails from a Hindu Rajput family. His paternal village Lwali is in the Lamgara block of the Almora District of Uttarakhand. Dhoni’s parents moved from Uttarakhand to Ranchi, where his father Pan Singh worked in junior management positions in MECON. Dhoni has a sister Jayanti Gupta and a brother Narendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni is a fan of Adam Gilchrist, and his childhood idols were cricket teammate Sachin Tendulkar, Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and singer Lata Mangeshkar
Dhoni studied at DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir, Shyamali, Ranchi, Jharkhand where he initially excelled in badminton and football and was selected at district and club level in these sports. Dhoni was a goalkeeper for his football team and was sent to play cricket for a local cricket club by his football coach. Though he had not played cricket, Dhoni impressed with his wicket-keeping skills and became the regular wicketkeeper at the Commando cricket club (1995–1998). Based on his performance at club cricket, he was picked for the 1997/98 season Vinoo Mankad Trophy Under-16 Championship and he performed well. Dhoni focused on cricket after his 10th standard. He was a Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) at Kharagpur railway station from 2001 to 2003, under South Eastern Railway in Midnapore (W), a district in West Bengal. His colleagues remember him as a very honest, straightforward employee of the Indian Railways. But Dhoni also had a mischievous side to his personality. Once, while staying at the railway quarters, Dhoni and a couple of his friends covered themselves in white bedsheets and walked around in the complex late in the night. The night guards steve jobs were fooled into believing that there were ghosts moving around in the complex. The story made big news on the next day.
Junior cricket in Bihar
In 1998, Dhoni was selected by Deval Sahay to play for the Central Coal Fields Limited (CCL) team. Till 1998 Dhoni, who was in class 12th in school, had played only school cricket and club cricket and no professional cricket. One of the famous episodes, when Dhoni used to play for CCL, was when Deval Sahay used to gift him Rs 50 for each six that he hit in Sheesh Mahal tournament cricket matches. Playing for CCL, he got a chance to bat up the order. He grabbed the opportunity and scored centuries and helped CCL move to the A division. Deval Sahay impressed by his hard-hitting shots and dedication, used his contacts in Bihar Cricket Association to push for his selection in the Bihar team. Deval Sahay, an ex Bihar Cricket Association Vice-President, was the Ranchi District Cricket President at that time and was instrumental in pushing Dhoni to the big stage of Ranchi team, junior Bihar cricket team and eventually senior Bihar Ranji Team for the 1999–2000 season. Within 1 year, Dhoni moved from playing in CCL to the Bihar Ranji team. Dhoni has credited Deval Sahay for instilling discipline in him. Dhoni was included in the Bihar U-19 squad for the 1998–99 season and scored 176 runs in 5 matches (7 innings) as the team finished fourth in the group of six and did not make it to the quarter-finals. Dhoni was not picked for the East Zone U-19 squad (CK Nayudu Trophy) or Rest of India squad (MA Chidambaram Trophy and Vinoo Mankad Trophy). Bihar U-19 cricket team advanced to the finals of 1999–2000 Cooch Behar Trophy, where Dhoni made 84 to help Bihar post a total of 357. Bihar’s efforts were dwarfed by Punjab U-19s’ 839 with Dhoni’s future national squad teammate Yuvraj Singh making 358. Dhoni’s contribution in the tournament included 488 runs (9 matches, 12 innings), 5 fifties, 17 catches and 7 stumpings. Dhoni made it to the East Zone U-19 squad for the CK Nayudu trophy but scored only 97 runs in four matches, as East Zone lost all four matches and finished last in the tournament.
Bihar cricket team
Dhoni made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bihar in the 1999–2000 season, as an eighteen-year-old. He made a half century in his debut match scoring 68* in the second innings against Assam cricket team. Dhoni finished the season with 283 runs in 5 matches. Dhoni scored his maiden first-class century while playing for Bihar against Bengal in the 2000/01 season, in a losing cause. Apart from this century, his performance in the 2000/01 season did not include another score over fifty and in the 2001/02 season, he scored just five fifties in four Ranji matches.
Jharkhand cricket team
Dhoni’s performance in the 2002–03 season included three half-centuries in the Ranji Trophy and a couple of half-centuries in the Deodhar Trophy, as he started gaining recognition for his lower-order contribution as well as hard-hitting batting style. In the 2003/04 season, Dhoni scored a century (128*) against Assam in the first match of the Ranji ODI tournament. Dhoni was part of the East Zone squad that won the Deodhar Trophy 2003–2004 season and contributed with 244 runs in 4 matches, including a century (114) against Central zone.
In the Duleep Trophy finals, Dhoni was picked over international cricketer Deep Dasgupta to represent East Zone. He scored a fighting half-century in the second innings in a losing cause. Dhoni’s talent was discovered via the BCCI‘s small-town talent-spotting initiative TRDW. Dhoni was discovered by TRDO Prakash Poddar, captain of Bengal in the 1960s, when he saw Dhoni play for Jharkhand at a match in Jamshedpur in 2003, and sent a report to the National Cricket Academy.
India A team
He was recognised for his efforts in the 2003/04 season, especially in the One Day format and was picked for the India A squad for a tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Against the Zimbabwe XI in Harare Sports Club, Dhoni had his best wicket-keeping effort with 7 catches and 4 stumpings in the match. In the tri-nation tournament involving Kenya, India A and Pakistan A, Dhoni helped India A chase down their target of 223 against Pakistan A with a half-century. Continuing his good performance, he scored back to back centuries – 120 and 119* – against the same team. Dhoni scored 362 runs in 6 innings at an average of 72.40 and his performance in the series received attention from the then Indian captain – Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri, amongst others.
Start of ODI career
The Indian ODI team in the early 2000s saw Rahul Dravid as the wicket-keeper to ensure that the wicket-keeper spot didn’t lack in batting talent. The team also saw the entry of wicket-keeper/batsmen from the junior ranks, with talents like Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik (both India U-19 captains) named in the Test squads. With Dhoni making a mark in the India A squad, he was picked in the ODI squad for the Bangladesh tour in 2004/05. Dhoni did not have a great start to his ODI career, getting run out for a duck on debut. In spite of an average series against Bangladesh, Dhoni was picked for the Pakistan ODI series.
In the second match of the series, Dhoni, in his fifth one-day international, scored 148 in Visakhapatnam off only 123 deliveries. Dhoni’s 148 surpassed the earlier record for the highest score by an Indian wicket-keeper, a record that he would re-write before the end of the year.
Dhoni had few batting opportunities in the first two games of the Sri Lankan bilateral ODI series (October–November 2005) and was promoted to No. 3 in the third ODI at Sawai Mansingh Stadium (Jaipur). Sri Lanka had set India a target of 299 after a Kumar Sangakkara century and, in reply, India lost Tendulkar early. Dhoni was promoted to accelerate the scoring and ended the game with an unbeaten 183 off 145 balls, winning the game for India. The innings was described in Wisden Almanack (2006) as ‘Uninhibited, yet anything but crude’. The innings set various records including the highest individual score in ODI cricket in the second innings, a record only broken after seven years by Shane Watson. Dhoni ended the series with the highest run aggregate (346) and was awarded the Man of the Series award for his efforts. In Decembe