In 1997 I toured the national capital, New Delhi. It was quite common there to hear the word ‘Bihari’ being used as a slang denoting a person who lacks social etiquette or to make fun of people from Bihar and to make them feel inferior.
Due to this it was also common for the people hailing from Bihar to avoid mentioning the name of their state or telling people where their roots were.
In November 2000, Jharkhand got carved out of Bihar and it had the image of a mineral rich tribal state.
In later years, when I went to Delhi again, I found the people from Jharkhand proudly saying that they come from Jharkhand and not from Bihar.
However, within five years, Jharkhand proved to be a politically unstable state and several corruption cases surfaced. Soon, the most promising state of India had turned into the most corrupt one. There was not much to talk about the state. And Bihar on the other hand started doing well and the people from Bihar were not being targeted like before because of their place of origin.
But just before the end of the 2004, on December 3, cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni made it to Team India and, in cricketing lingo, took a stance.
After Jaipal Singh Munda, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or MS Dhoni was the biggest star and sportsperson from Jharkhand.
He did not perform remarkably in that series, but he got selected for India-Pakistan One Day International (ODI) series in 2005. And in his fifth ODI match he had smashed 148 runs in just 123 balls. It was the highest score by any Indian wicket-keeper, and Dhoni had arrived.
Since then he never looked back and on August 15, India’s Independence Day when he announced his retirement from International cricket, Dhoni had played 350 ODIs, 90 Tests and 98 T20 matches.
Under his leadership, Team India won the T20 inaugural World Cup in 2007, in 2011 ODI World Cup and in 2013 picked up the Champions Trophy. The team also got 1st ranking in Test cricket.
With every achievement by Mahi, as he is lovingly referred to, Ranchi and Jharkhand were once again making headlines and getting written about.
It became common for the people from Jharkhand to hear, “Oh, you are from Jharkhand, Dhoni’s place?”
While with every success of Dhoni the entire nation, and the people of Jharkhand in particular, were feeling proud, the image of the new born state was further deteriorating.
In 2007, when Dhoni had lifted the T20 ICC trophy, a former chief minister was arrested on charges of corruption.
Within a decade and half Jharkhand had become synonymous with corruption and it was only brand Dhoni which saved the people from humiliation that every resident had to face outside the state.
Under the leadership of Dhoni, Team India was shining but, due to lack of leadership in the state, Jharkhand’s sheen was wearing away.
Now that Captain Cool has left international cricket the people of Jharkhand can only wish that they get somebody like him in public life or in sports to again revive the image of the mineral rich tribal state not just in India but also across the globe.