Just before the Jharkhand Assembly elections in December 2009, Jitendra Singh, independent candidate from Hatia, a suburb of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hometown Ranchi, decided to start a fan club in the cricketer’s name. Top of the agenda was to turn Dhoni into a deity and get votes in the bargain. He planned to build a temple for Dhoni and even laid the foundation for it.
All was going to plan till the cricketer’s family heard about it. Dhoni’s elder sister Jayanti made their disapproval known to Singh, and construction plans were shelved.
“How can one build a temple to someone who’s alive? It’s just a mockery of people’s faith,” says Narendra Singh Dhoni, the 39-year-old elder brother of the Indian cricket captain.
With the World Cup about to start, the family is keen for followers to strike a “balance”. In the last World Cup, after India lost to Bangladesh in a match in which Dhoni scored a duck, 200 fans took to the streets of Ranchi, chanting “Dhoni hai, hai”. They burnt his effigies and tore down the walls and pillars of the cricketer’s under-construction home. “When the team loses, they burn his effigies. When it wins, they want to build a temple. We respect both love and criticism for Mahi, but his fans should realise that one man cannot win or lose the game for India. It’s the whole team,” says Narendra.
Narendra is both optimistic and superstitious this time. “We’ll win this one,” he says, and “I’ll make sure that I watch every ball Mahi plays. Main nahin dekhoon to woh run nahi marta hai. (If I don’t watch, he doesn’t score).”
As for the politician Singh, after failing to turn Dhoni into a god, he promised a statue and photo museum in place of the temple. He lost the election, and his plans are now gathering dust.