Jammu and Kashmir were beaten by Jharkhand on the field in their Vijay Hazare Trophy match, but off it the cricketers from the northern valley emerged gainers when former India captain MS Dhoni decided to spend some time with them, answering their cricket-related questions. A couple of years back, the J&K cricketers were addressed by Sachin Tendulkar, who dropped in at the Wankhede Stadium dressing room after they upset Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy match.
It was a nightmare of a tournament for J&K as they lost all but one match finishing last in their group. After being beaten by Jharkhand, it was J&K skipper and India international Parveez Rasool who requested Dhoni to talk to his teammates.
On Rasool's request, wicketkeeper-batsman headed straight to the J&K dressing room and patiently listened to their players' queries for about 15 minutes.
"Mahibhai has always been helpful on cricketing matters. That's his nature. It was a great opportunity to learn a thing or two from Mahibhai. He is a great guy. I played alongside him for India (Rasool's skippers in his brief stint with India team were Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli)," Rasool said.
"I told him (Dhoni) few of our youngsters want to meet him for five minutes and within no time he obliged us and said 'I will go from here'," Rasool said.
For some of the players, it was their first interaction with Dhoni.
"It was a great opportunity for our youngsters who have seen Dhoni only on TV... They saw Mahibhai for the first time today. Mahi went inside and answered their cricketing queries," the off-spinner added.
Reserve wicketkeeper Raman Thaploo also got some wicketkeeping tips from his idol and there was some advice for their middle order batsman Ian Dev Singh, who is going through patchy form with scores of 24, 0, 1, 13 and 2 in his last five innings.
"He told Raman how to react in subcontinent conditions. Our batsmen going through a bad patch. He said, 'Every cricketer goes through a bad phase. When you are in bad form, even a bad fielder takes a brilliant catch but it's opposite in good times. He said to work even harder in such testing times, be serious in the nets. You should not get out in nets. You will take confidence if you have this," Rasool said.
Having partnered Dhoni in a brief 27-run partnership in a T20I against England in Kanpur last month, Rasool was awestruck to see his game-reading capability from the other end.
The former skipper hit an unbeaten 36 from 27 balls to guide India to 147/7 in a match they lost by seven wickets.
"He hit boundary through long-on off Chris Jordan and in the next ball, he hit another boundary bisecting point and covers. He told me he knew where he would pitch the ball. I asked him how to develop that instinct? He said "Always follow a bowler's strength. When to bowl a slower one and a faster. Our youngsters enjoyed a lot."
Meanwhile Dhoni, who travelled with the team by train from Ranchi, is not following the same route in their return as he's flying to Bengaluru on Tuesday morning to attend the BCCI Awards and MAK Pataudi Lecture on March 8.
(With inputs from PTI)