Bengaluru, Dec 10: It's 7 AM on Thursday (December 10). Four fans are at the main gate of Aluru grounds. They are 2 hours early to watch their hero, after travelling over 40 kilometres from Bengaluru.
The excitement of reaching the venue is soured a bit when the 4 IT professionals are stopped at the gate by security personnel. They can't get in.
So what to they do. 'Bribe' their way in.
"We work night shifts and came directly from work to the ground at 7 AM. We knew there will be lot of fans coming in so we made sure to arrive a little early. We ended up bribing Rs 1,400 to the security guards at the gate," Vigneshwar Shekar, one of the 4 software engineers, said.
With the "security clearance" out of the way, the 4 friends walk through the gate and wait for Dhoni to get onto the field.
90 minutes later, the coin toss takes place. Jammu and Kashmir captain Mithun Manhas has won and has opted to field which means the 34-year-old Dhoni will bat in the first half of the match.
At 10.29 AM, Jharkhand are reduced to 73/3 in 20 overs. In walks Dhoni to the crease to a cheers from fans, around 150 including the 4 early birds.
It is a quiet start for Dhoni. He is happy picking up the singles. Soon his 1st boundary comes along and fans roar.
"Helicopter shot", shouts some of the spectators sitting on the boundary wall. There are no special arrangements made, no chairs. Some people are standing and applauded every ball Dhoni plays. No complaints.
At 10.56 AM heartbreak for the fans as Parvez Rasool dives to his left at 1st slip and take a left-handed catch. Dhoni walks after scoring just 9 runs off 24 balls.
The wicketkeeper-batsman's supporters are disappointed.
"We came here to watch only Dhoni but we are very disappointed. We were very surprised that Dhoni was actually playing. Initially we thought it was an old Jharkhand squad announced online but later we realised it was the team announced for the Vijay Hazare (Trophy)," K Athyiman, Shekar's friend said.
Dhoni failed with the bat but half centuries from opener Ishant Jaggi (54) and Kaushal Singh (53) help team to 210 all out in 50 overs.
Whether it is 210 or more, the fans don't care. They have come in only to watch Dhoni.
In the sparse crowd is Manjunath, a barber by profession. He stays close to Alur and is a big fan of Dhoni. He has brought a chocolate to gift the 'match-winner', who led India to all 3 ICC trophies (World T20, 50-over World Cup and Champions Trophy).
"I've never seen a match-winner like Dhoni. I bought this chocolate only for Dhoni. I know its very small gift to what he can afford, but that's something I want to give," said Manjunath.
Next to the black sightscreen, a young girl is seated next to her father. She is wearing a Chennai Super Kings cap and holding a placard which reads "DHONI".
This schoolgirl likes only Dhoni. Ask her about Test captain Virat Kohli, she is quick to say "No".
When Jharkhand took the field, the crowd joined in again to cheer Dhoni. The World Cup winning skipper disappoint as he waved back. Though Varun Aaron was the team's skkper, Dhoni stepped in to set the fields on many occasions.
Right through his wicketkeeping duties, the fans were well behind Dhoni, to every sense.
For the few who were at Alur ground 2 (Golden Oval), it was a memorable journey to the venue. And Dhoni's team won by 5 runs in a last-over thriller.
One team might have won the contest on the field but the fans considered themselves as real winners after watching Dhoni. They are bound to return tomorrow (December 11), as Dhoni and his team-mates face Gujarat at "Silver Oval" in the same premises.