A leader is one who makes an impact and provides inspiration. MS Dhoni exemplified these qualities. The legend of MSD has crossed boundaries and generations who have looked up to ‘Captain Cool’ as a role model. True to that, Dhoni’s aura in Tamil Nadu has spread across to every corner where the former India captain is often rendered demi-God status. Such has been the fan-following of ‘Thala’ Dhoni that every initiative done for society has to be in the name of ‘Mahi’. In search of such unique fan stories, Star Sports 1 Tamil ventured in to a small town called Neikarappati nestled in the Salem district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to discover a fan named Thangaraj. According to Thangaraj, who began a one-of-a-kind fan MS Dhoni fan club in his neighbourhood, there’s no better reason to do good than be inspired by Thala. Also Read - Virat Kohli Responds to Harry Kane on Asking Him For a Place in RCB

The daily wage worker and sole bread earner of the Thangaraj household, he began this club in 2011 after watching his own ‘Thala’ smash that winning six against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Cup that sent ripples and chills down the spines of every Indian cricket afficionado at the Wankhede and across the globe. That fabled moment in cricketing folklore coupled with Thangaraj’s vivacious appetite for Dhoni and Chennai Super Kings saw the birth of the fan club which initially saw a strength of 60-70 members but gradually increased to more than a thousand. Also Read - Happy Birthday, Suresh Raina: Wishes Pour in as Former India International Turns 34

Using the power of MSD as inspiration, Thangaraj empowered the members to do social work for the community. Be it feeding the poor with rice and pulses, helping with stationary supplies to young kids from tough backgrounds to empower them to study, he has been doing this for a while. “My father and I are huge cricket fans and Thala is our favourite cricketer. We started this fan club after seeing MS Dhoni smash that winning six in the 2011 World Cup final. That’s the moment we felt that our village should have their own fan club. My father insisted that we should do social work as part of the club and channelize our passion towards helping the needy,” Thangaraj told Inda.com. Also Read - BCCI Explains Why Rohit Sharma Didn't Travel to Australia And Returned Home After IPL 2020

A lot of the members are daily wage workers themselves. They save up money and aim to give back to the community that made them. The lockdown that was caused to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, did not douse the fire and zeal to reach out to their community. This fan club has worked hard to help people who have been sent to old age care homes by providing them with meals. “In my town Neikarappati, Mahi is more of an emotion and I wanted to spread this to my community which is another reason I used the fan club to do social work. I hope someday, one member from my village goes on to be like Thala Dhoni,” he said.

Neikarappati were expecting Dhoni to light up Chennai and Tamil Nadu this year. But as fate had it, the Dream11 IPL 2020 was pushed overseas. “Thala has been a huge inspiration for all of us. We all wear the yellow jersey and watch every CSK match. A small celebration takes place when CSK wins the match. Due to the lockdown, we are not able to do it this year. But we all are cheering from home – Namma Thala Dhoni ki Periya Whistle Podu’,” he says in jest.

No matter how long and arduous the road ahead is, Thangaraj will keep his valiant initiative going, at least that’s what he remembers after meeting his idol just once. Recalling his first tryst with Dhoni, Thangaraj says, “I first met Thala during the opening ceremony of the 2017 Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). Thala was invited for it and I was really excited that I was among few fans to meet him because in Tamil Nadu, there’s no chance anybody can meet him. He’s such a huge super star over here. When I met him for that match, I immediately touched his feet and then shook his hand. I was surprised to hear what Thala said after that. He said that I should not touch his feet, but he said it in Tamil. I will always remember that day and will keep doing such good work in the name of MS Dhoni.”

There’s a famous adage that goes, ‘legends never retire, they only inspire.’ This holds true for MS Dhoni and now, even Thangaraj too!