'Since MSD comes from Ranchi, which doesn't have a cricket culture as such, the whole of India loves him!'
The legendary Sunil Gavaskar says two-time World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's popularity in India has exceeded the level of fandom even the great Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli enjoy in the cricket-crazy nation.
The former India captain is in the UAE to commentate in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League, which began in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on runners-up Chennai Super Kings.
Dhoni, who last month retired from international cricket, is back to play in the IPL for Chennai Super Kings in his first competitive outing since the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
Speaking about Dhoni before the IPL opener, Gavaskar said, "Since MSD comes from Ranchi, which doesn't have a cricket culture as such, the whole of India loves him. Tendulkar has Mumbai and Kolkata, Kohli has Delhi and Bengaluru; but when you talk of Dhoni, it's the whole India."
Staying in self-isolation for the first six days after spending five months with family was the hardest phase, according to Dhoni, who spoke for the first time in months.
At the toss in the IPL 20202 opener, he said he worked on his fitness during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.