Some memories of cricket triumphs are etched in the mind for eternity and none more than Mahendra Singh Dhoni sealing India’s World Cup with that six off Nuwan Kulsekara to end India’s 28-year drought.
The ball flew into the stands and all of India rose in ecstasy.
While the spectators at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai celebrated triumph, one man’s objective was to get hold of that white kookaburra ball.
Praveen Shinde says he has that priceless ball.
“When Dhoni hit that six, the ball fell towards the pavillion, near the dressing room. While people were dancing and celebrating in the stands, I made my way through them and looked for the ball,” Shinde remembers.
“The moment I found it, I put it straight in my pocket. I later showed it to Dhoni who autographed the ball,” recalls Shinde.
“I told Dhoni I’ll give him the ball once he retires from the sport,” the 62 year old adds.
Once people learnt what was in his possession, Shinde received a lot of offers.
“Lots of people offered money for the ball, but I’m not interested in the money,” says Shinde. “I told them I have promised Mahi that I will give him the ball once he retires. So I have kept it in my hometown so one bothers me here.”
Last year after Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket, the Mumbai Cricket Association launched a hunt for the ball.
“When I first found the ball, I didn’t tell anyone, but I later told Mumbai umpire Marcus Couto and a few others who collect cricket memorabilia. I told them I am not giving it to anyone but Mahi,” Shinde says firmly.
A former banker at the Bank of India, Shinde served as an umpire in cricket matches in Mumbai from 1979 to 2019.
He used to collect cricketers’s autographs and has the autographs of all the members of the 2011 World Cup winning team.
But on the insistence of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, he has stopped asking for autographs.
“In 2012,” says Shinder, “I casually asked Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma for their autographs for my collection. They recognised me because of our connection to Mumbai cricket. They both chided me, saying, ‘You are a veteran umpire, we call you sir. When you ask us for autographs, it’s embarrassing.’ That is when I decided to stop.”
“I also had the autographs of players from IPL teams that used to play matches in Mumbai,” he adds. “After I stopped taking autographs, I donated all those autographs to the Mumbai Cricket Association’s IPL office for display.”
“Since my retirement in 2019,” says Shinde says, “My family asked me to give up cricket and focus on the family, but my desire to gift Dhoni that ball on his retirement from the sport will always keep me connected to cricket.”
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