Former India wicketkeeper and the chairman of the selection committee until 2006, Kiran More had spotted a young MS Dhoni during a Duleep Trophy final between East and North Zone in Mohali.
He was so impressed by the Ranchi boy’s keeping and batting skills that he picked him for India-A’s tour of Zimbabwe in 2004 where Mahi performed exceedingly well, thus making his debut in international cricket. Years later, when Kiran was asked to coach Sushant Singh Rajput to play the Indian skipper in his forthcoming biopic, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kiran excitedly took up the challenge.Dhoni hails from a small town, worked very hard and has captained the team for 10 years so it’s a very inspiring story and I was really looking forward to train Sushant. The initial 10-15 days were tough as he is an actor and not a professional cricketer, so I let him play in his natural way but later I upped the game and Sushant worked really hard to get it right,” says Kiran who trained the Raabta actor for nine months every day from morning 6.30 to 10 am at Chandrakant Pandit Cricket Club in Andheri and later at a Bandra Kurla Complex ground.
As part of his prep, Kiran informs that Sushant had to bat nearly 400 balls in two sessions of a day’s training followed by wicket-keeping lessons. “He had never worn keeping gloves before nor had played with a season ball so we began with learning how to catch the ball, get the hand positions and the stance right. And once he got a hang of it, we proceeded to work on the way Mahi would wear his helmet, hold a bat or dive while keeping, followed by the shots he plays like over-the-top and over the -point,” reveals the 54-year-old coach, adding that initially the actor wasn’t getting Dhoni’s iconic helicopter shot right but once he did, Sushant wanted to hit the same way every day. “Though that part came much later as we first had to get the basics right. But I think he is the only guy who got the helicopter shot correct after Dhoni,” Kiran laughs.The former cricketer asserts that wicket-keeping isn’t simple and despite suffering several bruises on his fingers, chest and stomach, the 30-year-old actor never gave up on the training nor did he go easy on him. “Yes, I was tough because I had to get him right. He would sometimes lose focus, would not enjoy the game or get carried away playing too many shots so I had to guide him through all that. Sometimes, I would throw wickets at him, shout at him for mistakes and would even punish him if he turned up late. But we shared a fantastic rapport,” Kiran adds.Ask him about MSD’s reaction after watching Sushant train and Kiran says, “Sushant had shown him some training videos and Mahi was very happy. In fact, he even told me, ‘Sir aapne kya kar diya, ek actor ko cricketer bana diya.’ It was unbelievable for him,” reminisces Kiran who realised that he was on the right track when a few cricketers noticed Sushant practicing on the field from a distance and thought he was a professional. “Even Sachin (Tendulkar) who dropped by during one of the training sessions mistook him for a real cricketer,” the coach says, adding that Sushant always came prepared.”He watched a lot of videos as part of his prep, had a trainer, a physiotherapist and a dietician to help him out as he was quite lean in the beginning and had to put on some weight to look stronger like Mahi. Twenty-thirty days into the training, I knew Sushant was the right choice to play him,” he signs off.