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Dhoni the man behind Jharkhand's success in Ranji Trophy 2016/17

By Saurabh Malhotra -

Jharkhand is having a magical season in Ranji Trophy, the team has managed to reach the semi-finals along with heavyweights Mumbai, Gujarat & Tamil Nadu. Whether they go on to win the trophy or not, this has been a major leap for a team that hasn't made a major impression in the past despite producing cricketers like MS Dhoni, Varun Aaron and Saurabh Tiwary.

So what has changed this season for this team? Well, the biggest change has been that 'Captain Cool' MS Dhoni has been with the team as mentor, while using the opportunity to keep himself fit and practice with the boys. Dhoni, now retired from Test cricket and first-class cricket, only plays limited overs cricket.

The onfield heroes for Jharkhand have been Shahbaz Nadeem (the leading wicket-taker of the season) and Ishan Kishan (captain of India's U-19 team in the latest edition of World Cup). Both Nadeem and Ishan have credited Dhoni for their success in a chat with CricketNext.

Nadeem said, “It always helps when you have someone like Dhoni bhai to help you. There is no questioning his tactical acumen and I still remember that going into the game against Maharashtra, the wicket wore a slightly greener look. So Dhoni bhai came up to me and said that I should initially look to restrict the batsmen and use variations only after I have tied them down. The move worked wonders and here I am leading the wicket-takers’ tally,”

While Ishan echoed similar sentiments, “Dhoni bhai saw me at the nets and walked up to me and said that I needed to curtail my attacking instincts to begin with. He believed that to play a long innings I needed to be a little more compact and I did just that. He asked me to change my stance as well and when it comes from someone like Dhoni bhai, you know you can trust his observation.

“I got time to rework my stance and train with my new stance during the camp ahead of the season and I realised that I was feeling a lot better at the crease. I have maintained that stance since and I have seen that it has enhanced my batting,” he revealed.

While batting and bowling is something every team focuses on, Dhoni arranged for a fitness camp in order to improve the team's fitness, and the result is showing now.

Ishan says, “Dhoni bhai puts a lot of emphasis on fitness. As we all know, he loves to stay at the top of his fitness level. And this time, he ensured that we also worked on our fitness at the start of the season. It was obviously something that wasn’t too common with the domestic teams, but the experience was out of the world.

“To be honest, we have played nine games so far, but we still feel like the season has just started. To be mentally fresh going into the business end of the tournament is very important and we have managed to do that thanks to Dhoni bhai’s efforts,” he concluded.