London, July 18 (UNI) Mahendra Singh Dhoni's rock-star looks would not have made headlines and the riches that he is amassing at an astonishing pace may not have come his way had he not been persuaded to stand behind stumps instead of between two posts.
Revealing that football was his first love, the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman said, ''When I was 12 or 13 there used to be a camp for football and I was quite inclined towards football, so I started going there and practised for a couple of years.
''After that we needed a wicketkeeper in our school team and our games teacher said, 'Look, the basics are the same, you're a goalkeeper so just move and catch the ball'.'' ''That's how it started,'' Dhoni said.
Talking about his affinity for football, the Jharkhand player says ''But initially I was a footballer and I still love football.
I support Man Utd. Our first-class season used to start in September-October.
''I used to come back from the ground and watch the Premiership games. I also used to love Zidane. Among English clubs, Cristiano Ronaldo is my favourite player.'' Known to be a 'big-bike freak', Dhoni who owns two superbikes himself, has now set his sight on a Harley-Davidson in England. On discovering Andrew Flintoff has had occasional use of a Harley-Davidson, Dhoni's eyes lit up just as it does when a bowler bowls a fulltoss at him ''I'd love to take it for a ride. But I don't have a licence over here,'' he sadly says.
Clutching an empty glass which had contained a mound of ice cream and chocolate sauce, he told the 'Daily Times', ''So many people talk about Lord's from the cricketing point of view, or talk about its history, but I think the food is amazing.
The desserts are excellent.'' Dhoni is certain to feature in the statring line-up for the first Test starting at Lords tomorrow, which will be his first meaningful match on these shores.
On his hard-hitting batting style, he said ''The only aim is to hit every ball hard for six. If you are unfortunate, you will get a four . . . or get out.'' He made his debut in 2002 and soon made waves scored 148 in his fifth one-day international, against Pakistan, and replicated that in his fifth Test, against the same rivals.
He then overhauled Gilchrist's record ODI score by a wicketkeeper when he made 183 not out against Sri Lanka in 2005.
Enjoying his time-out from the maddenig crowd back home, he says ''It is lovely being here (England) because I can walk in the streets, I can go to a restaurant, I can do anything, go wherever I want.
''When I go back to my city, I don't really struggle there.
I can walk around freely and go out riding my bikes. But, of course, I have to cut down on my outings.
''I can't go here, there and everywhere. If I go to a mall I will get mobbed, with people wanting photographs. There is no security threat, but if the number of people increases, the police help get you out.'' UNI