September 23 (The Indian Express) – Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has come forward to help the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) locate the ball which disappeared into the stands on the historic night India won its second ICC World Cup in 2011. The governing body was planning to immortalise the moment, and also honour Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who hit the match-winning six, by naming the seat where the ball would have landed after him.
While the search was underway, Gavaskar informed the MCA that the spectator who caught the ball happens to be an acquaintance of Gavaskar’s friend.
The search for the exact spot and the match-ball started last month when the 39-year-old announced his retirement from international cricket. MCA Apex Council member Ajinkya Naik had written a letter to the governing body with the idea of honouring Dhoni with a permanent seat in the spot where the ball would have landed in the Wankhede Stadium.
MS Dhoni struck the winning runs against Sri Lanka to clinch ICC World Cup in 2011. (Source: AP)
“As an act of gratitude and tribute to his immense contribution to Indian cricket, the MCA can devote a permanent seat on his name at the pavilion where his famous World Cup-winning six had landed,” read Naik’s letter, which had been accessed by The Indian Express.
“We can paint and decorate the seat in a unique way to celebrate Dhoni’s association with Wankhede Stadium… We can have a plaque on that seat with some special text to honour that moment.”
That spot has now been identified as seat number 210 in the MCA Pavilion, L Block. And the person in possession of the match ball has also been identified.
“Gavaskar informed Ajinkya that his friend knows the person who was at that spot, and even has the ball with him,” an MCA member said.
It is expected that the MCA may request Gavaskar to help getting in touch with the spectator – who has placed the ball in a display-case which also has the laminated match ticket.
The news has come at an opportune moment for the MCA, who had recently accepted a request by the Maharashtra government to open the Wankhede Stadium and allow tours of the venue for visitors.
The prospect of a particular seat, and not an entire stand, being named after a player is a novelty in India, but is not an alien concept abroad.
Simon O’Donnell’s 122-metre six in a First Class match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1993 has been commemorated with the seat where the ball landed being painted yellow. Similarly, in 2018, at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Big Bash League franchise Melbourne Renegade honoured their former player Brad Hodge by painting a third-tier seat red, where Hodge’s 96-metre six landed in what was his last match as a player.
And in Auckland, New Zealand, a plaque was placed on a seat where Grant Elliot hit a six that secured the country’s first appearance in the final of a World Cup, back in 2015.
Dhoni, whose title-winning shot off Sri Lankan pacer Nuwan Kulasekara’s bowling, will now join that elite list.