New Jersey: In a rare public appearance in the US, Indian ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni interacted with the diaspora here and called on them to keep supporting the cricket team, which he said is going through a lot of changes.
"Keep supporting us. We have a good side, we have a good team. We are in a phase where we are going through a lot of changes but with all due support of yours, we will keep doing well," Dhoni said in an interaction at the Siddhivinayak Temple here yesterday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni with wife Sakshi arrives at Sidhhivinayak Temple in New Jersey. Pic/ PTI
Dhoni, accompanied by his wife Sakshi and former Deputy Chief Minister of Jharkhand Sudesh Kumar Mahto, performed puja at the temple, which is under construction and will open to the public later this year.
Dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt, Dhoni said it is "a first of a kind" visit to the US for him, since whenever he comes to America, he does not do any public events and only spends private time with family.
"I have been to different places. Most of them have been cricket-playing nations like England and Australia. This was a one of a kind (visit) in the US," he said referring to his public appearance at the temple.
He said it was an "eye-opener" for him to see how the diaspora has embraced US culture but at the same time held on to their Indian heritage.
"This is something that is really appreciable. Having immigrated to the US many years ago but to still be 200 per cent Indian and still acknowledge and respect the traditions of the country you are in, I feel is something that everybody needs to learn," he said.
Dhoni also voiced appreciation for the way the first and second generation Indian-Americans have taught their younger children about various aspects of life.
"That is something I really appreciate," he said. Thanking the gathering for the "warm welcome", Dhoni, who did not interact with the media, said it is an honour for him to be present at the temple.
Dhoni noted that cricket is not very popular in the US and on his visits to the country, he often has to explain to those who don't know about the game that it is similar to baseball.
Talking about his home city Ranchi, Dhoni shared an anecdote that when he had made his cricket debut in 2004, not many foreign cricketers knew about his city. He recalled that once while touring outside India, a person mistook Ranchi for "Karachi." Dhoni said he had to explain to the person that Ranchi was a city in the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand.
Young children performed cultural dances during the two-hour event, which was attended by about 150-200 people, including the elderly and young children who were visibly excited to meet their cricketing hero.
The gathering cheered Dhoni as he arrived at the venue and jostled to take selfies with him.
Special momentous were presented to Dhoni and his wife by Sri Siddhivinayak Temple of USA Chairman Avinash Gupta.