The legendary Sunil Gavaskar on Saturday said two-time World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's popularity in India has exceeded the level of fandom even the great Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli enjoy in the cricket-crazy nation. Gavaskar, also a former India captain, is in the UAE to commentate in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which began here with defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) taking on runners-up Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Dhoni, who last month retired from international cricket, is back to play in the IPL for his first competitive outing since the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand. Speaking about Dhoni before the IPL opener, Gavaskar said, "Since MSD comes from Ranchi, which doesn't have a cricket culture as such, the whole India loves him. Tendulkar has Mumbai and Kolkata, Kohli has Delhi and Bengaluru but when you talk of Dhoni it's the whole India."
Staying in self-isolation for the first six days after spending five months with family was the hardest phase, according to Dhoni, who spoke for the first time in months.
At the toss, he said he had worked on his fitness during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.