After team India’s World Cup 2019 journey ended at the semi-final level, speculations were ripe that Mahender Singh Dhoni, the flamboyant wicket-keeper, would finally, hang his gloves.
However, Dhoni surprised everybody when he requested army headquarters to allow him to take on patrolling, guard and post duties, with troops of Territorial Army battalion in South Kashmir.
In 2011, Dhoni was given the honorary rank of a lieutenant colonel in Territorial Army unit of the Parachute Regiment (106 Para TA battalion) which is a vital adjunct of the regular army.
Four years later, Dhoni became a qualified paratrooper after having completed five parachute training jumps in the Agra training camp. Dhoni will join Awantipora based Victor Force for two weeks.
Before he showed his eagerness to put on a military uniform, Dhoni ruled himself out of India’s upcoming series against West Indies.
But Dhoni’s last visit to Kashmir in 2017 ended making headlines for an entirely different reason. During army-sponsored tournaments where Dhoni was the chief guest, locals raised slogans praising Pakistani heartthrob, Shahid Afridi.
Chief of Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat, answering the question posed by the NDTV reporter about Dhoni’s safety in Kashmir said, “I don’t think we will need to protect him; he will protect the citizens and garrison entrusted to his task.”
Dhoni will become the first-ever cricketer to participate in active duty with the armed forces.
Other cricket superstars like Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar have also joined the armed forces in an honorary capacity in the past. Tendulkar, for instance, was conferred with the honorary rank of a group captain (equivalent to an Army colonel), with epaulettes and all on his blue uniform, at a ceremony in September 2010.
Dhoni, 37, has been seen in his Army greens on many occasions. In the recent World Cup, there was a controversy over a military logo he sported on his wicket keeping gloves, something that the ICC objected to and was later removed.
When he had been given the honorary rank in 2011, Dhoni had said, “Since childhood, I had wanted to join the Army. I used to visit the cantonment area and seeing the soldiers, I used to think that one day I will also be among them.”
– Umar Mukhtar